21 January 2017

A Look at Holly Bell and her haunted plastic bag - Sacramento Paranormal Investigation and Research Team Exposed

Holly Bell is the co-founder of Sacramento Paranormal Investigation and Research Team. Sounds good doesn't it. Before i go further, lets quote her entire bio, so you can get an idea of who she is.
"I am the co-founder of Sacramento Paranormal Investigation and Research Team. My group has been to a number of investigations but we have been working on missing person cases lately and my own house due to the number of apparitions we have captured over the past year. The amazing part is all of these spirits can only be seen through the reflection in my mirrors in my bathroom. After many attempts to rid my home of spirits I decided to slow down and listen which has changed everything I've ever known about spirits."
We have another self proclaimed expert on the paranormal, they run a ghost hunting group, and put videos and photos on the internet.

Most of the photos are of herself in a mirror, and then desperately trying to find something in the reflection that vaguely resembles a dead child, or demon or something else ridiculous.

Here is example 1 taken from her Facebook page.

Description with the photo reads
"I am cleaning my tablet and found this picture from 2 months ago. Just another piece of evidence to add to my crazy haunted house file."

Yes this is "evidence" of the paranormal!
Clearly the reflection of the flash has highlighted wipe marks on the mirror, and may you can make out a face if you really squint your eyes, at the absolute best this could be put down as pareidolia, but personally I cant see anything clear at all. If you can please leave a comment.

Next photo

No description with this photo other than it being from a crazy night.
I assume it was posted because of the artifact to the left of the image.
They would call this evidence of the paranormal. I would call it an eyelash on the lense.

Photo 3

The description reads
"My bud Renee and Cofounder of SPIRIT Paranormal took her family out for some fun and paint balls. When she took a selfie she realized she was photo bombed by the Spirit of a little girl. Her daughter was in the back seat but she is not a blond and she was on the other side of the backseat."

Now most of the photos she shares are the ones in the mirror which are awful, or orbs or rubbish like that.
This photo I really like, as it really does look like a face!
This is another example of pareidolia, he face appears on the head rest of the back chair.
No real explanation here as it is just pareidolia, but it is quite a good one.

"Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists"
Photo 4

This photo was taken in a cemetery in Vacaville, California. Kinda looks like a claw right?
Clearly this is something close to the lens of the camera and out of the focal range.
Could be an insect, could be a spider, could be a spit end? Could be a lot of things, and in a cemetery too, it's hardly the cleanest of places is it. One thing for sure is that it is not a demon claw.

Anyway you get the idea, they publish these photos as "evidence" of the paranormal, they never offer up any potential rational explanations, instead jumping to the paranormal explanations instead, usually a dead girl.
What this means is that despite calling themselves experienced investigators, they are just uneducated people messing about in the dark. Would you pay to go on a ghost hunt with Sacramento Paranormal Investigation and Research Team when they consider this evidence?

And lastly, you are probably wondering why I titled this article the way I did. Well it is all because of this excellent video.

The description reads "Video of a spirit playing with a plastic bag"

Have a watch, and ask yourself, is this a haunted plastic bag? I will let you make your own conclusions as to the cause of this. Please leave a comments.

By Jon Donnis

20 January 2017

Debunking Joe Powers' 'Psychic' Secrets feat. Richard Wiseman - The Man Who Contacts The Dead

After Derren watches Joe live, he reviews the footage with psychologist, author and magician Richard Wiseman (Quirkology) and they figure out his techniques used in the show.

19 January 2017

Mellowb1rd and his ghost videos Debunked/Exposed

Mellowb1rd is one of the oldest paranormal channels on YouTube.
Naturally his poltergeist activity videos are very much fake.
He’s even admitted that he faked some of his ghost videos, yet people still believe Mellowbird.

So in this video I’ll show you why his poltergeist activity videos are a hoax and why Mellowbird is not haunted, but just uses his skills to create fake ghost sightings.

Mellowb1rd has been exposed before, but he just cleverly bends the story so people continue to believe him.

By Duck of Truth
Duck of Truth on Youtube

James Randi talks about psychic fraud (mediums, homeopathy & more)

Legendary skeptic James Randi has devoted his life to debunking frauds and investigating paranormal and pseudoscientific claims

Legendary skeptic James Randi takes a fatal dose of homeopathic sleeping pills onstage, kicking off a searing 18-minute indictment of irrational beliefs. He throws out a challenge to the world's psychics: Prove what you do is real, and I'll give you a million dollars.

Alien Abduction and Psychic Powers - Derren Brown

Messiah is a Derren Brown special originally shown on Channel 4 on 7 January 2005 at 21:0

Derren convinces a hugely influential figure in the world of UFO abductions that he was abducted by aliens, and as a result can now read people's medical condition.

18 January 2017

"Spotted Ghosts" Photos Debunked!

First lets start with their own description of themselves from Twitter
"I hunt ghosts to see if they really exist! I make my own mobile investigation apps & run a cool para website. Join me on my quest!"

I might do an article on their terrible ghost hunting apps in the future, but for now the reviews do enough damage.

Anyway I thought I would check out their website. And more specifically their ghost photos page. After-all what better place to start when looking at the credibility of such a group, than to see what they consider "evidence" of the paranormal, and if they have the basic skills to debunk a simple ghost photo. (Hint they have no skills whatsoever)

The photos on their site seem to be ones either taken by themselves or sent in by people. They are posted in the "Ghost Photos" section of their site. I will take 3 examples and see what I think.

First photo

Their description:
"I can 100% c a baby face?? Ne1 else?? This was taken on fast camera and only showed in 3 pics??"

Now lets ignore the horrendous grammar and teenybop speak if possible.
I can kinda see a smudge type image in the centre of the photo? I assume this is the baby face they refer too?
Remember this is on their site under the ghost photos! They consider this evidence of the paranormal.
As far as I can see this is a zoomed in part of a photo, from a larger image.

The circular smudge looks to be a classic photographic anomoly, or as spiritualists like to say "an orb".
For people are who capable of going to the toilet on their own, this is just an out of focus artifact near to the lens of the camera. Orbs have been thoroughly and completely debunked by the likes of Fujifil for decades and decades now.

Check out this link

I cant even put this photo down to pareidolia as I simply cant see any baby face? Can any of you?

Second photo

Their description:
"This is a pic my brother took look close ther seems to be a face in the fire spooky ass"

Now anyone who follows me on Twitter will know I absolutely love photos like this, and I post quite a few. And this photo seemingly taken by an Andrea Turner, does without doubt seem to show a face in the fire. I don't believe this photo was faked, and the photo has not been manipulated at all.
So what is the explanation? Well you may have noticed me already mention the word "pareidolia", first of all let me say when you have finished reading this, type pareidolia into google, then click images, and enjoy!

"Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus (an image or a sound) wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists.

Common examples are perceived images of animals, faces, or objects in cloud formations"

The man in the moon is the most famous pareidolia image of all time and has existed for millenia!
Here are a couple of great examples of fire pareidolia

I like this one particularly since it is not your usual face, but what looks to me like a bunny!

And this one is epic, could it be the devil? Looks more like Ned Flanders to me!

Anyway back to the original photo of interest. Is it a ghost? No, is it a demon? No, is the face of a dead murdered child? No. It is 100% pareidolia, which is completely understand and explained within psychology.

If you have any good pareidolia images please do tweet them to me, as I do love them!

Third photo

Their description
"One of my friends mother on her wedding day can you see the little boy on the left of the picture"

Now, I can tell you straight away this photo is faked, but wait, I am just the big nasty skeptic, lets give a chance for followers of "Spotted Ghosts" to speak and give their opinion, surely they will also know its faked and call them out on it? 

Oh dear, they all think it is real.

Look to the left of the photo and you can see a little boy in black and white! Now how do I know it is faked I hear you ask? Well I know it is fake because I have seen the boy before, and i have even used the iPhone app that allows you to fake these kind of ghost photos.

Here is the ghosts you can use in the app.

And here is the exact little ghostly boy used in the faked ghost photo. Side by side with the faked photo for proof.

Oh and its not the first time that someone using this ghost boy has fooled someone either. The Sun and Daily Mail both fell for a hoax photo using this boy.

So there you have it. 3 Ghost photos explained and debunked. And 100% proof that "Spotted Ghosts" have published a 100% faked photo as "evidence" of the paranormal.

Do I really need to say more on this?

Regarding the use of the photos on this article, They are used for the purpose of criticism, comment and news reporting.

"Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for "fair use" for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use."

Self-proclaimed psychic Melissa Lee arrested by LAPD

A woman was arrested on Saturday after allegedly working as a psychic and defrauding multiple people of thousands of dollars.

Kimberly Cheng reports for the KTLA 5 News at 11 on Jan. 16, 2017.

17 January 2017

Skeptics Boot - A Trifecta Of Turgid Tabloid Toss! Ghost Actresses! Thermal Cameras! Elves!

I guess the British tabloid press is tired of Brexit and Trump news and has decided to "treat" its eager readers with a glut of genuine, "unquestionable paranormal phenomena" today (15/01/17). Let's take a look at three bar-lowering examples.

Our first story comes from the Sun (and various other tabloids) courtesy of ghost hunter Caroline Mezoian of EVP paranormal. The image (below) taken in Bidford City Theatre, Maine, purportedly shows the ghost of actress Eva Gray who died at the location in 1904.

The image was taken with an infra-red camera, and immediately presents two questions: "Is that it?" and "Was Eva Gray only a foot or so tall?". as the body of the alleged phantom stretches only a few steps in height. The team's facebook page features many other images taken with Infra-red cameras showing similar blurs which are taken to be human-like forms or phantoms. The example to the right was allegedly taken on
the same night.

The Sun declares breathlessly and without hint of ambiguity "Infared images taken at the theatre last month show a ghostly white figure in an evening dress standing on the stairs appearing to walk out of the building." I guess that settles it then!

Whilst many commenters have accused the team of faking the image, I'm feeling slightly more charitable. I think the images they are getting here are a result of one of two things, either a failure to properly maintain their IR camera, or a failure to understand how the technology actually works. In the first case, it's possible that the images could be caused by smudges on the camera lens, a fingerprint for example or a smudge on the lens. Far more likely is a common failure to understand how the IR technology works.

 It is intuitive to view images taken in the IR spectrum in the same way we view images in the visual spectrum. All we are talking about after all is a downward shift in the electromagnetic spectrum, but the whole reason IR cameras are popular in the paranormal field is because they will show things that aren't visible to the naked eye. Before we jump to the conclusion of something paranormal we have to eliminate more mundane things which can't be seen with the human eye. As IR cameras are presenting a picture made up by heat gradients, it's quite plausible that all we are seeing is an area that is slightly warmer than the surrounding environment. In a 2010 article for the Skeptical Inquirer, Ben Radford explains how mis-attribution due to a basic misunderstanding of this technology arises.

"Heat is of course far less transient than light; if we turn off a light switch in a closed room, the area goes dark almost instantly. But if we turn off a source of heat--including body heat--in an area or room, the heat may remain long after the source has been removed.... At an investigation I carried out last year for the TV show MysteryQuest, one of the ghost hunters used a forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera to detect a foot-long vertical warm spot on a pillar. No one in the room could explain what caused it; one person suggested it was a sign that a ghost had been watching us. In fact I had seen one of the ghost hunters leaning against the pillar a few minutes earlier, and the warm spot matched exactly the height and shape of the man's upper arm." Radford. 2010.
I think that's the explanation here frankly. As Caroline herself states in the article “’I didn’t really believe it at first, but when you look at the images how can you deny that’s not something?” I agree, but as often happens with paranormal investigation teams who closely emulate the methods seen on ghost hunting television shows, "something" can't be extrapolated to "something paranormal" without a much higher standard of evidence than these images present.

Which leads us into our second paranormal story, which shares some similarities and, I believe, can be explained in a similar way.

The Daily Mirror (15/01/17) reports on more images presented by a ghost hunting team, this time it's East Drive Paranormal. The team are presumably named in connection paranormal tourism location 30 East Drive in Pontefract, made infamous by various ghost hunting tv shows, most notably Most Haunted. You would be forgiven for suspecting that the named the team have selected indicates their inspiration in investigating the paranormal comes from such programming.

The Mirror tells us:
"The team were summoned to the Italian restaurant after scared staff reported seeing a glass flying off the bar. Jason (a psychic apparently) immediately sensed the spirit of a disgruntled man in his 50s, who had been disturbed by recent decorating work... " 
The only evidence we're given of paranormal activity prior to the team's visit, barring anecdote of course, is a glass falling across the bar and shocking a member of staff and patron chatting at the other end of the bar. Of course, we see no surrounding events to suggest why this should be unusual in any way. Things stacked improperly or in a precarious equilibrium can easily be disturbed, and the glass skitters across the bar simply because it initially bounces a little.

So what about the teams actually footage? Go and watch the video if you like, but I'm going to provide a couple of screen caps that show East Drive Paranormal really don't have a clue about the equipment they're using and conducting an investigation in general.

Image 1: So here we see vaguely human shapes formed on the infrared camera. Could it be a ghost, or is there a more obvious explanation.

Image 2: Our camera operator whips around presumably to see if he can capture the image of whatever the thermal camera is picking up. In doing so he reveals that the area being recorded isn't isolated in any way shape or form! In all likelyhood, the thermal images are a result of the body heat of the other occupants of the room. As Ben out lies above, the body heat remains after the team members move on.

 Image 3 and 4: As if to compound this massive cock up, we are shown an image of at least two people walking through the exact area where the thermal images were! In fact, there are so many people walking about I have to question if the restaurant is even closed! It's busier than in the footage we see whilst it's open for business.

I'd say "It doesn't get much more inept than this." but someone at the Daily Star would likely consider that something of a challenge. In fact, given this story they published today (15/01/17), they already have. In the story, reporter Jesse Bell tells us of a heated Reddit debate in which users debate whether the image on the right below represents an elf or a dwarf....

Jesse tells us
"One user said: “I’m picturing the black part as being the back of the head, kind of sloped upwards and maybe wearing a little hat.... Honestly the only thing I can see it as is a little elf.”.. Another wrote: “I’ve heard about dwarfs a bit growing up."...“They are on the paranormal spectrum and judging by the size and stature that's what I might take this to be.”..."
I suppose this should be funny, but it's not really. It's just awful and sad. I know not dealing with this critically makes me a bad skeptic, but....

So what have we learned from today's tabloid paranormal output? Some paranormal teams are inept, as are some journalists, and the Daily Star really doesn't give a flying pig what they publish.

Hardly news.

By Rob Lea

16 January 2017

Derren Brown: Miracles For Sale - Exposing faith healing

Derren Brown: Miracles For Sale.
Originally aired Monday 25th April, 2011 - 9pm, Channel 4.

Innovative entertainer Derren Brown returns to Channel 4 in a unique TV experiment lifting the lid on faith healing.

The one-off Easter Monday documentary special sees Derren go undercover to investigate the reality behind the faith healing phenomenon, in America, and the belief in faith-inspiring miraculous recoveries.

With the cameras in hot pursuit, Derren undergoes his toughest project yet, going in search of an unsuspecting member of the British public prepared to adopt the guise of a Pastor and miracle worker. His chosen one is then tasked with six months in which to learn the trade and flourish across the pond as a convincing Pastor.

The final phase of the volunteer's extraordinary challenge will see them attempt to perform faith healing miracles live in Texas - will Derren's new recruit be accepted as a faith healer or cast away as fake healer? Is the belief in divine intervention really justified or will Derren expose the industry as one giant hoax?

On his first TV pursuit into faith healing, Derren says 'You are about to see a world where greed and deceit raise their ugly heads, where lives have been needlessly lost and where hope, the most precious gift of all is pedalled at a price'.

Derren Brown: Miracles For Sale is produced by Objective Productions for Channel 4. Derren Brown, Anthony Owen, Andrew Newman and Shirley Jones are Executive Producers, David Vallance is Series Producer and Simon Dinsell is Director.

15 January 2017

Derren Brown and Martin Freeman Experiment with New Age Crystals

From Derren Brown: Trick or Treat, Series 1 Aired 4 May 2007
Martin Freeman, star of Sherlock, fails to deduce why he is so affected by the mystical crystals.