Saturday, July 14, 2012

And... More App Attrocities

Recently, skeptical investigator guru Kenny Biddle saw a photo billed as the "holy grail" of evidence.  It depicted a ghostly image of a woman sitting among miscellaneous items in what looks like a storage area.  But this ghost lady looked really familiar.  And for good reason:  it was an image taken from a well known photograph, "The Madonna of Bachelor's Grove Cemetery" (see right.) Personally, I like the picture so much that I used it for the cover of my Halloween Mix CD a while back.  The photo has since been made available as a ghost app for smart phones.

Just another team trying to fool others, right?  Well, this case gets a little more complicated.

On this team's Facebook page, they boast about being featured on a upcoming episode of American Haunting (formerly A Haunting) on the Discovery Channel.  The location of the investigation to be  profiled is the same as where they claimed the ghostly image was caught.

Kenny contacted the team directly, who went into defensive mode.  He posted the photo on Facebook, and when I saw it, I contacted two paranormal anti-fraud groups.  Soon, it went viral among the paranormal community and the team got hammered with criticism.

Long story short (let's just say there was a lot of name calling), the team backpaddled and said the photo was taken by their client.  They claimed they had it analyzed by a professional photographer who didn't see any sign of trickery.  (Somebody needs their "professional photographer" card revoked). They also said they did not recognize the image.  

Let's stop here for a moment.  If you do not take a picture yourself, you should never, ever post it as "evidence".   Just because a friend, relative, client, or stranger off the street says it's the real deal doesn't make it so. And, even if they are 100% sincere, you have no idea what the conditions were at the time the photo was taken or what - if any - controls were used. And mostly likely, there is no accompanying comparison shots or video for a more complete or proper analysis.

As I, and many other paranormal researchers in the field have been saying, ghost apps are widely available and easy to use.  If you are a paranormal investigator, you really should be aware of this by now.  It's not exactly a big secret.

Source:  It's Not Haunted
Now the blame has also shifted to the client who owns the supposed haunted location.  When they were first asked if they knew the team was putting the blame on them, they initially defended the team and all the "evidence" caught at their business.  Like the team, they also criticized the people who called the picture into question.  And they are also claiming they didn't fake the photo.

So there are three issues with this case:  1) A paranormal team either faked evidence or at the least, didn't do their homework before posting it as such  2) A client/business owner either faked a picture or at the least, defended the team after being notified of the faked evidence and 3)  the driving force behind it all:  the desire by both the team and the client to be on national TV.

Sadly, very few paranormal shows profile teams that utilize true scientific methodology and critical thinking.   They are more interested in the sensational aspects of paranormal investigating.  That's what attracts viewers, boots ratings, and brings in advertising $$$.

Owning a "haunted location" is now a big business thanks to paranormal TV.   If you get your restaurant, hotel, or even abandoned building profiled on one of these shows, you can charge people a hefty fee to "investigate".  The teams benefit as well:  because of the exposure, they will attract more cases - whether they are competent or not.  Many viewers unfortunately seem to think if a team is profiled on TV, they are somehow "better" than others.  This is not necessarily true.

To be fair, I know owners who sincerely believe they have had paranormal experiences at their location.  And they are in business to make money.  If they can get an edge on the competition by attracting additional clientele, I can't blame them.  But that is one thing.  It is a completely different matter if they deliberately alter photos, manipulate the history of the location, or fabricate claims out of thin air.  All of these things are done with the intent to mislead people and then profit from it.

After this team's bogus photo went viral, I was one who lamented that it is an example of why paranormal research isn't taken seriously.  It isn't just the fact that a photo was blatantly faked, (faking a photo is bad enough, but using a famous image to do so is ridiculous).  No, this situation shows how the all-too-common mix of greed, ego and entertainment shoves valid research into the mud.

To read more about this case:

An excellent article about ghost phone apps: