Brian D. Parsons
Brian maintains two blogs, one on ParaNexus and one through his weekly radio show; Paranormal News Insider. The latter is updated more frequently.

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December 30, 2015

The Top Ten Paranormal News Stories of 2015

I bring you my annual list of the top stories of the paranormal world. There is no way for me to say this is the definitive way these stories should be listed and arguments for the arrangement could be made to put any one of the top ten at number 1, but this list is essentially my opinion on the matter based on a year with few groundbreaking or long lasting viral stories. I have been doing this list since the end of the 2009 season of the Paranormal News Insider.

How is this list assembled?

Stories make the top ten for two basic reasons. The first reason is the story must be viral. A viral story may only be popular on social media (YouTube, Facebook Twitter, etc.) through one or multiple platforms. These stories may also become viral through news media either locally, regionally, or globally. How big a story becomes is one thing, but how long the story lasts in the media is another. A story that is a flash in the pan that is a global story may not be ranked as high as a story that was a big story only regionally yet lasted weeks. The second reason stories make this list is based on the impact they have on the particular aspect of the paranormal field they have to do with. Stories that offer a glimmer of hope in a particular field will usually be ranked higher than a story that is based on a hoax. Using these two scales as a guide I rank each story against each other with both aspects and eventually whittle down a list of stories into a top ten.

Some years are fantastic and other years are duds when it comes to paranormal stories. I will be doing a top three from 2008 through 2015 sometime in 2016, but 2015 was a dud when compared to 2008 (Stephenville, Texas UFO, Georgia Bigfoot Hoax, Montauk Monster) and other years that had standout stories. Here is this years list:

10. A video surfaced in early September that was being called "Real Pterosaur Spotted over Idaho, USA". A few others splattered this over social media and have claimed that it took place in Ohio.

A small amount of detective work links the YouTube video back to the original source of o7tv YouTube channel. While the video itself looks realistic there are a few strange things about it. The flying creature looked stiff, rather like an electronic flying toy. Many posted this as a likely explanation along with a cheesy version of a radio controlled pterodactyl, but the comparison was not close. Many said this was CGI, but there seemed to be no evidence of it being a digital manipulation. In all likelihood the video is a fake of some sort. This YouTube user is also responsible for a number of other releases of videos that are admitted CGI hoaxes, such as the video from 2013 titled �Real UFO with aliens caught on camera� where a skinny alien seems to wave while it stands by a UFO sitting on a hill. The UFO suddenly darts into the sky and the camera drops as the person filming apparently runs away. Later, the UFO is seen hovering again only to shoot off after hovering for a moment. �Car Disappears on Highway�, �Dragon Flying over England� are also examples of viral hits from this user that have generated millions of views. These videos demonstrate some similar effects of those seen in the pterosaur video. So, was the video a real 65 million year old creature flying around Idaho? Probably not, but it's likely that we will never know and the amount of speculation surrounding this video landed it in the countdown this year.

Why it�s in the top ten: It was a viral hit and while many people figured it was the work of a hoax there were just as many that believed this could be real. There were very little details that pegged this as CGI, despite many people claiming it, and it pointed toward a mechanical version of the extinct reptile. However, no one could find a source for this being a remote controlled replica of this extinct creature. Why it�s number 10: While it was very viral it disappeared just as quickly as the creature in the video did. No further evidence could keep this story in the news despite it being one of the most shared videos dealing with the paranormal this year.

9. One story that evolved slowly at first before gaining a snowball momentum was the image of the purported Jersey Devil that was sent in to and was shared with the world on October 12th. The story goes that a man named Dave Black was driving home in Galloway, New Jersey, when he spotted what he thought was a llama near the road. Suddenly, this llama-like creature spread its leathery wings and took flight over a golf course. Black was able to snap a few pictures, but only one came out. Then, the story began to develop. A day later a video was sent in to

by a reader named Emily who was traveling through Leeds Point. She tries to add credibility to the video by stating she is a middle school teacher who moonlights as an algebra tutor for high school students. The video shows the dreaded Jersey Devil quickly flying across the screen as the person filming it lets out a quiet gasp. Even though most people realized this was not a legitimate story things quickly escalated for Kelly Roncace who wrote the piece. She was quoted as saying that once the video was added that "...all hell broke loose." She was getting calls from Good Morning America and news outlets all over the United States and beyond. It also got the attention of many skeptics and paranormal bloggers who were quick to dismiss both the photograph and video. Kelly was attacked by many, but she stated that her section is a features column and was not supposed to be taken as actual news. 

Why it�s in the top ten: This story contained different bits of sightings of a unique and well known cryptid and the story went viral beyond simple social media. The fact that Good Morning America and other news stations showed interest, although not serious about the creature�s existence, also added to this story being included on the list. Why it�s only number 9; the story did not have enough traction or validity or even follow up to consider it being any higher than number 9. If there were other viral stories similar to this with even a bit better evidence, the term used loosely here, this story would have been pushed to number ten or out of the top ten easily.

8. There exists some good evidence that the Loch Ness Monster was a story created for tourism in the 1930s. I mentioned on the September 29th episode of the Paranormal News Insider how Crop Circles may have been born in English Pubs, now it seems that the Loch Ness Monster may have been created not at the bottom of Loch Ness, but at the bottom of a nice ale. The monster was supposedly created by a man named DG Gerahty, who was hired by several Scottish hotel owners to help drum up business through tourism. The group was supposedly inspired by Lake Ogopogo�s folkloric monster in Canada. They were also purportedly inspired by a book.
 Professor Gareth Williams suggested these claims in a new book that the Loch Ness Monster was created to help spur sagging tourism after the Great Depression. He also pointed out in his research that the answer to the story behind the monster may lie in a short extract from a semi-autobiographical novel called Marise. In the novel, the narrator described how the story of the monster in the Scottish loch was invented in a pub near Trafalgar square. Professor Williams said that the lack of sightings of the monster before 1930 strengthens the argument that the monster was made up in the early 1930s. Once a sighting took place the flood gates were opened and remain open to this day despite many photographs being disproved as hoaxes or misinterpretations. Many new photographs and evidence continue to pop up only to be discovered as hoaxes or again; misinterpretations. Is the Loch Ness Monster real? Not likely and this story might sound like a nail in the coffin, but the story of Nessie has survived this long and is doubtful to disappear due to facts just as it has all these years.

Why it�s in the top ten; this is a telling story about the potential origin of one of the most popular creatures in cryptozoology. While it seems to legitimately discount the creature as being real it will not take away from it being a popular cryptid. Why it�s number 8 in the countdown: this release of information did very little to disperse the legend of the Loch Ness Monster nor did it really gain much traction as a viral story outside of the United Kingdom or have any impact on tourism to the Loch Ness area, at least negatively.

7. The floating city in China. Thousands of people reported seeing a strange city floating in the sky complete with skyscrapers in the city of Foshan in the Guangdong province in China on October 9th. Numerous photographs and videos documented the strange event that left some wondering if a parallel universe opened up in the skies. If that wasn�t enough, just a few days later a similar event happened over the skies of Jiangxi (GEE-ONg-SHE) China. Conspiracy theorists were quick to make several accusations about the event in an attempt to explain what was happening.
Was it a Project Blue Beam test? Could this be a temporal vortex, a possible parallel universe materializing briefly into our own reality? Some also felt considering China's technological achievements that a top secret holographic technology was tested over a heavily populated area in an effort to gauge the public reaction. These are all nice guesses, but unfortunately the reality is a little less exciting. This event, while rare, actually happens often in China for some reason, but is known to occur most often in polar regions and is known as Fata Morgana. No, this isn�t some French socialite, but it is the name for a natural mirage caused by weather and the infamous temperature inversion. Fata Morgana is the Italian name for Morgan Le Fay, and other names, as the enchantress from the King Arthur legends. Fata Morgana can be seen on land or sea and involves the optical distortion and inversion of distant objects such as boats, which can appears as skyscrapers because the images become stacked, when rays of light bend as they pass through air of different temperatures such as in a heat haze. The real thing here is that while it�s quite a sight and does not happen often, it has been noted every few years especially here in the paranormal news arena. These sightings are also confused with UFO sightings as the mirage comes from below the horizon and makes an object appear in the sky and a Fata Morgana can also trick RADAR signals into perceiving objects floating as well.

Why it�s in the top ten: this story scared the living daylights out of a lot of people, and not just in China. It lead to an enormous amount of speculation, of which only a handful was discussed here, that made conspiracy theorists crowd around the warm glow of their computer monitor in their parent�s basements. Many websites stated that this was a sign of the end times. Other sites thought that the video was just digital manipulation. This speculation was no match for the amount of science that poured in from news and educational resources such as Discovery News, National Geographic, Science, Accuweather, CNN, and others that properly described this as Fata Morgana and even listed a number of very similar incidents that had piled up long before these two in China. However, Snopes declared this story as unproven and that many pieces of this story do not add up. Why it�s number 7: this was a very viral story that nearly everyone involved with the paranormal or science weighed in on. It was interesting to see the diversity of beliefs between the paranormal, UFO, and conspiracy websites and it brought to light their emotional reactions to stories like these. It also highlighted how many bloggers and news organizations continue to peddle stories like these without doing simple research and finding the reality behind them, this is why I do the Paranormal News Insider. While the story had a logical outcome and was nothing short of explainable it did highlight the beliefs of many of the world in the strange, anomalous, and just downright scary things that happen every day.

6. On March 10th a strange video has surfaced from the jungles of Costa Rica, no, not of a dinosaur, but of an extinct bird.
The video, uploaded only to YouTube, shows an iguana in the foreground and then a strange bird poking around a fallen piece of tree in the background. The bird looks slightly familiar and as the 48 second video comes to an end the edited clip shows the bird walking directly in front of the green tinted scene; a bird that closely resembles that of the once living dodo. The video was purportedly taken by a photographer who had set up video to record animals at night, when I first debuted the story I stated it would be wise to doubt the video until further information shows up. Dodos were first mentioned in 1598 and were slowly hunted to extinction in the mid-1600s and ultimately became a mythological bird. Dodos were only found on the island of Mauritius (MAR-RISH-ISS) which is east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. So, how would one end up in Costa Rica? The dodo was used as food, similarly to pigs which were released on the island of Mauritius. The Dutch who controlled the island in that time most certainly took the bird for trade and may have released them on other islands, such as Costa Rica, as a food source. The dodo bird video made many people, including myself, hopeful that this video was real and that we could rediscover an animal thought extinct. The video was a bit fishy from the way it was shot to how most of it was in focus except for what we were hoping to see. However, on the morning of March 16th I found part two of the video that showed the dodo bird move its beak off camera and return with a cue card with �I wish I was real� written in Portuguese. 

The video was created for a conservation team, a non-governmental organization known as Civil Association Alternative Terrazul, that was looking for some attention by using the extinct dodo to draw in the general public and then educate them on living species that are closing in on extinction such as jaguars, African elephant, golden lion tamarin, Amazon River dolphin, panda bear, black rhino, hawksbill sea turtle, blue whale, and others. The project was known as almost a dodo.

Why it�s in the top ten: nearly everyone involved with cryptozoology, zoology, and the paranormal was weighing in on this video. Many were confident this video was the real deal despite some of the shortcomings described about the blurry nature of it as well as the uncommon camera type and placement. This was an extremely viral video that the conclusion of which was not broadcast very much. Sadly, the message of this organization seemed to miss its mark even after drawing a much larger audience than they anticipated. Why it�s number 6: this was an extremely viral video that had many people believing this could be the biggest animal finding since the coelacanth. Despite the cheesy nature of the video as well as the reveal it has gone down as one of the most believable cryptozoological hoaxes in recent history.

5. The Charlie Charlie Challenge. Gravity will hurt you, but not with falling pencils.  What started out as a Spanish-speaking schoolyard game has morphed into the poor man�s, or lazy man�s, Ouija Board and a silly little game that seemingly can only work if you put it on your Vine.
A 17 year old girl in central Georgia apparently instagrammed her game using the hashtag  #CharlieCharlieChallenge and from there it gained a lot of momentum. As of May 26th the phrase had been tweeted over 2 million times and is getting more social media attention than any news event anywhere in the world. The trend started late on May 23rd and built up on the 24th and went strong for a couple of days. A Priest in Philadelphia wrote an open letter to those involved with the cult-like practice where he taught in a Catholic High School saying that "there is no such thing as innocently playing with demons." Little did he know, these demons actually work in Hollywood. The whole Charlie Charlie Challenge may have started out from trends in South America where this new version of a couple of older Spanish games were merged, but it ended up seeming like nothing more than a viral campaign for the movie �The Gallows� in which the main character of the movie, which whom it is bad luck to utter his name, is named Charlie. During the movie, and as highlighted in the preview at the previous link, they attempt to contact Charlie by using the same exact method in a short Spanish preview "La Horca" or "The Gallows." However, disagrees saying that this video was uploaded a day prior to the breakout of the Charlie Charlie Challenge and that the date discrepancy is enough to discredit this theory. 

Why it�s in the top ten: the Charlie Charlie Challenge was one of the most viral stories of 2015 on social media let alone one of the top stories in the paranormal. Many people were afraid of this while many others laughed this off as a child�s game despite the similarities to the Ouija Board yet this story got the attention of worldwide media well beyond social media. Why it was only number 5: it really did little to bring the paranormal out of the dark ages of belief and superstition. While the fear behind the Charlie Charlie Challenge finally subsided it was just another scar on the face of the paranormal belief engine and did little to create acceptance or discovery in the paranormal. It�s mere presence on this list is due completely to the viral nature of the story.

4. Harvey Robertson, a Scottish tourist, was on vacation with his family off the coast of Parga off the northwest coast of Greece. He was taking photographs with his iPhone of the color of the water while sailing through sea caves when he took a photograph of a strange creature. The photograph was making the rounds as expert after expert were stumped as to what the creature was.
Some felt this was a Cuvier�s Beaked Whale; some thought it looked like a manatee, a cuttlefish, or even some sort of hippo-dolphin morph. Then, the bubble was burst.  Zoologist Dr. Darren Naish of the National Oceanography Centre at the University of Southampton was the first to identify what he felt was truly in the picture. The strange creature was identified as nothing more than a half-sunken low freeboard boat fender. While so many people were contemplating what type of animal it was it seemed no one was willing to question whether it was even a real animal. I admit I was stumped and did my best to find a living creature to match, lesson learned. So did Mr. Robertson attempt to fool the general public? More than likely not. His photograph seemed to genuinely confuse him and if he did not see the fender when he took the photograph or view the picture to see the object he would have little reason to look for it afterward.  Still, there are many people who deny this logical explanation and feel that the animal is still out there. I�m sure it is and I hope someone finds that boat fender. 

Why it's in the top ten: This story went very viral and carried itself for nearly a week until the boat fender theory seemed to wash away the hope of finding a new mysterious creature in the waters off of Greece. Numerous experts weighed in on this story as it built momentum all over the world. Why it was only number four: despite being one of the top viral stories of the year the purported creature is more than likely just a boat fender. While this explanation is still being argued it is the most plausible. With it having no real impact on cryptozoology this story was only carried so far on the waves of popularity.

3. Misidentified Rocket Launches: Probably the biggest UFO story of the year, and definitely September, was actually very explainable. Dozens of videos and photos flooded the Internet on Wednesday, September 2nd, especially in Florida where the Atlas 5
spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The rocket had a $7.6 billion Navy satellite system that was launched into orbit. The launch took place just after 6 AM and seemed to take a lot of people off guard as the rocket and its exhaust trail became illuminated by the pre-dawn sun as it gained altitude. Even people who were told what it was didn�t believe it since the rising sun lit up the trail and made it very colorful. Twitter was going crazy from the tweets of people thinking there was an alien invasion or that the world was coming to an end.

On Saturday, November 7th the west coast lost their minds this time as a rocket was launched from out in the ocean catching many off guard. Earlier in the week the military had flights that normally travel over water to avoid noise over southern California to be diverted back over land on that evening. The Orange County Sheriff�s office tweeted that the large fireball in the sky was in fact a missile launched from the USS Kentucky, an Ohio class ballistic missile submarine. Speculation and rumors were and still are flying that the missile was some top secret thing or perhaps it was a test flight of a UFO being covered up or maybe even some other unknown technology. Why these thoughts? Well, Government. Not to mention the fact that people were taken off guard by the launch as well as saw the ignition of the missile that puzzled many. The missile was actually a Trident 2 missile that was not armed. Despite much speculation it has been cleared up that this is nothing more than a routine shakedown of the recently refurbished submarine. 

On December 22nd another rocket was seen over the western skies that also went viral. This one turned out to be a Russian SL-4 rocket body that was reentering the atmosphere and was visible for around ten minutes.

Why it's in the top ten: these rocket launches got a lot of publicity, both for the mere sighting and some for their scientific merit, but also a lot of speculation and fear generated by those who didn't know what was going on. The September Florida launch generated a lot of UFO and end-of-the-world type of speculation while the Trident California launch generated that and also some Government conspiracy talk. Even the recent sighting was thought to potentially be an alien invasion, I wonder where that thought came from? Why it was only number four: despite being extremely viral and some tense moments generated by fear and misunderstanding, these were obviously explainable examples of man made objects.

2. Bigfoot captured on photo/video (again, and again...). 2015 has been the year that Bigfoot has made numerous headlines of being captured clearly on photos and videos for the first time, well, a number of times. The year started out with photos from Florida of a fisherman who fooled a few people with a horrible Photoshop attempt as well as from the Arizona Department of Transportation that submitted a photo they jokingly thought resembled a family of Bigfoot.
While some so-called investigators claimed to have witness testimony and tracks, those of us who did some simple research found out these were just trees that never moved from their position. We then had the Turner,Maine video that was peddled by Bill Brock since 2014. The entire case turned out to be a hoax perpetrated by a kid that fooled many experts who claimed the video was the best since the Patterson Gimlin Film. Bigfoot�s Russian cousin then made his appearance in the Adygeya Republic area of southwestern Russia in what is now called the snowy woods video. A team of scientists were in the area following up on sightings when they captured the video. Some say that this was merely a stunt to drum up tourism. The Bigfoot Field Researcher�s Organization then debunked the first video of the year shot at Lettuce Lake Park near Tampa, Florida. While many felt this was just a Photoshop attempt gone awry, it turned out to be a hoax to get attention and ultimately make it on Finding Bigfoot. Then, a very viral story; the sighting of a purported Bigfoot family stalking bison near the Old Faithful Geyser at Yellowstone National Park that turned out to just be a group of people

Why it�s in the top ten: while Bigfoot hoaxes are nothing new, this series of hoaxes all gained momentum within the first few weeks of 2015 making it feel like everyone was getting in on the action. A few of these stories remained in the circle of Bigfootery while others generated a lot of public speculation and were viral stories. While most of these were obvious hoaxes some did bring to question whether these represented the proof that the world needed in order to validate the existence of Bigfoot once and for all. Why it�s number two: it didn�t prove anything other than Bigfoot investigators can either be gullible or very clever in discovering hoaxes. Despite these stories owning the paranormal headlines for the first few weeks of the year one story trumped all others in being viral and stirring belief in the paranormal.
1. The number one Paranormal News Story of 2015 was also one of the most viral paranormal stories of the year. The story took place Friday, March 6th in Spanish Fork, Utah.
A woman was driving home from her parent�s house in Salem, Utah to her home in Springville only 10 miles away. Sadly, around halfway to her destination 25 year old Lynn Groesbeck lost control of her vehicle, struck a cement barrier, and ended up in the Spanish Fork River with her 18 month old baby strapped into her car seat in the back of the vehicle. Nearly 14 hours later fishermen discovered the overturned car in the river and called police. As police and firefighters arrived they made their way to the vehicle unsure if anyone were alive. All five of the three policemen and two firefighters at the scene of the car purportedly heard the words, "Help me, help me now," from inside of the vehicle accompanied with screaming. This fueled the men�s efforts in getting into the car quickly and discovering the baby and bringing her to safety. Unfortunately, Lynn had died in the crash and the 18 month old girl named Lily was unconscious yet alive despite being only inches from the freezing water wearing no gloves or hat. 

Despite many people claiming this is a feel good story this is a very sad story that the young mother perished and that her daughter will not be able to grow up with her. Was this ghostly voice an example of a crisis apparition? A crisis apparition is described as someone who is about to, going through, or just went through the dying process is able to communicate to someone through unknown means. Granted, this could also be pareidolia, the sound of rushing water or other ambient noise in the background that made the men feel as though they heard someone in the car. One question I had was that if these officers were wearing body cameras with sound, why couldn�t we at least hear that few moments of audio? Obviously, the discovery of the driver, Lynn Groesbeck, who can be partially seen in previously released video, would be a bit gruesome and insensitive to show. Days after the accident part of the video on the body cam was released, but on March 14th a full 11 minutes and 45 seconds including the moment where the voice was supposedly heard around the 1:58 mark was put on YouTube.  There was a lot of yelling, talking including female voices, radio chatter, sirens, cars, rushing water, and more going on during the rescue. The female who worked on the infant inside the ambulance was seen standing only a few feet away. This information might be enough to discredit the men�s claims. Lynn Groesbeck's autopsy revealed that she had been using heroin and was under the influence of Clonazepam, THC, morphine, codeine and hydromorphone. A small bag of marijuana and tramadol were also found in the vehicle. 

Why it's in the top ten: this was the largest viral story dealing with ghostly phenomena all year and despite the evidence of a bystander potentially being the source of the voice there still exists a strong possibility this was in fact a voice from beyond death. Why it's number one: Despite the tragic end to Lynn's life the focus has always been on the luck of the survival of Lily. This story will always be remembered as a miraculous effort for a mother to save her baby from death from beyond the grave and has inspired many people to believe in the possibility of life after death.

Honorable mentions: I am still mesmerized by the "Merman in Poland" video that popped up in late September. Even though it was one of the strangest things to appear in the paranormal news the story disappeared a week after it came out despite no one really finding out what truly was going on. The #UFOSA story of a series of green UFO sightings in South Africa on November 28th was an extremely viral story that turned out to be a viral hoax. I had a soft spot for this since I discovered one of the photographs was fake prior to it being released that it was a gimmick for an energy drink. Despite their viral strength neither of these stories made it in the top ten in a year where the stories were all fairly weak compared to past years. I'll explore the top three stories since 2008 when I began doing the Paranormal News Insider in a future blog post.

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March 31, 2015

Second Edition for "Handbook for the Amateur Cryptozoologist"

My fifth book, "Handbook for the Amateur Cryptozoologist", was published in February of 2014. Since then, the book has been recognized in the July/August 2014 edition of "Skeptical Inquirer Magazine" in the New and Notable Section as a positive book review. At the end of the year it was again recognized as one of the The Best Cryptozoology Books of 2014 by renown cryptozoologist Loren Coleman. He labeled the book as "The Best Guidebook for The Cryptozoologist-In-Training of 2014." It was a huge honor to be recognized by a living legend of the field of cryptozoology for my work. It was also a huge honor to be reviewed by a skeptical organization and given a virtual "thumbs up" for a book that offered a balanced view on a controversial subject.

After Loren Coleman contacted me for a review copy and let me in on the fact that the book would make his year end list, he also wanted to sell his book at his International Cryptozoology Museum that is located in Portland, Maine. He was also curious to know if I was interested in including a preface to the book supplied by him. Earlier in the year I had made some revisions to the book in order for it to be included in an online school (name withheld due to not being completed at this time) and knew of a few other changes I wanted to make. I had never considered having someone write a preface, or rather a foreword by definition, for one of my books, but if I was for this book it would be no one other than Loren. So, in March of 2015 I re-released the book as a second edition. It is still only available at my personal online bookstore at Lulu Press and will be available at Amazon and other online retailers soon as the first edition is still available.

Interestingly, this book was a lot of work but I really did it for fun as it was a "diversion" of sorts away from my ghost handbooks and my work on the "E4" Method that included several on-site client investigations and months of research prior to that. This book was a lot of fun to write and I felt like it connected to me more of a person as I used my past to talk about concepts of the book. My other books were successful in their own right and I enjoyed my "tour" with the "E4" Method book that included conferences in Maryland, Virginia, and several appearances in Ohio and Pennsylvania not to mention numerous podcast interviews which was still a lot of work. Offers to review the "Handbook for the Amateur Cryptozoologist" seemed to come to me with little effort (there are more to come) and I had never thought of this book as one that would generate as much interest as it has so far. Every project I work on I attempt to expand my knowledge or experience with something, and while this book is still "self published" I am still proud of what it provides and I feel this is my best writing and overall book to date.
The "Handbook for the Amateur Cryptozoologist" explores the history and mystery behind some of the most elusive creatures found - and some that are still hidden. The handbook provides a well-balanced look at many concepts necessary to conduct proper client-based investigations. Cryptozoology has been shadowed under the umbrella of pseudoscience due to a myriad of problems. This book takes a skeptical, yet balanced, stance to help the newcomer or seasoned veteran gain solid footing into using a more scientific approach to the field. It will also arm you with the basic abilities necessary to become a successful researcher and field investigator in the field of cryptozoology. It explores the use of technology in the field as well as the methodologies behind investigations and expeditions that go beyond the television style of thrill-seeking. This handbook will be your basic guide to becoming a responsible and rational investigator in a field wrought with hoaxes and misinterpretations.
This book is available now at my personal bookstore at Lulu Press.

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January 11, 2014

Top Ten Paranormal News Stories of 2013

The top ten paranormal news stories have been selected by myself on heavily guided scientific protocol for selection. Actually, I just put a bunch of stories in a list and graded them on basic criteria. How big was the story? Did the story have a large influence on the media or social networking? How long or how big did this story become in that regard? Did the story have anything to do with furthering any aspect of the paranormal? How wide is the impact on the field? With this basic criteria I weighed the biggest stories and slowly built them into the top ten. 2013 was a hard year to do this, in years past the biggest stories were Sky Noise (2012), UFO's Over Jerusalem (2011), National Press Club Gathering on UFO's (2010), Black Hole over Norway (2009), Montauk Monster (close tie with Georgia Bigfoot Hoax, 2008), and 2013 really had no front-running story that carried it away in social media or made a huge impact in the paranormal. At any rate, the Top Ten Paranormal News Stories for 2013!

#10. Park Rangers Spot Dread-locked Pygmies.

Park Rangers in an Indonesian National Park claim there are 20 inch dread-locked pygmies running around the park. Rangers actually spotted the pygmies on March 17th and again on March 20th and watched as they ran and hid behind trees. They are now attempting to capture them, at least on film. These pygmies are known in cryptozoology as Orang Pendek. The theory that pygmies live in the area has actually been substantiated by science. In 2003, the bones of a female skull a third the size of a normal human skull was found on the island of Flores in Indonesia. The bones which were dated to be 18,000 years old were not the only remains found, but were only one of nine very small human bodies eventually excavated.

Why it's in the top ten: While there have been no additional findings of this story it does have the possibility of becoming an important discovery if it is in fact true. The basis of historical findings of bones discovered adds relevance to this story and time will tell if this is an ancient human running through the woods or some other new discovery.

#9. Mass UFO Sighting over Detroit.

Dozens of reports flooded in to various television stations surrounding a triangular shaped UFO that was seen back on January 10th. Other recent reports in Indianapolis and Miami showed a similar pattern in the sky. A MUFON representative appeared on the local FOX station and stated the explanation could be military or other as of yet unreported aircraft. So far no explanation has been found about this mass sighting. Similar sightings were also reported miles away in northern Indiana describing the same lights.

Why it's in the top ten: Dozens of people actually saw something in the sky in addition to a few who filmed it, this wasn't grainy iPhone footage by one person put up on YouTube with only one witness. Despite many different people and agencies looking into this sighting nothing has come close to explaining this story. While there were many other mass UFO sightings this one is unique due to the sighting area and lack of an explanation. Why is it only number 9? No further sightings and no evidence to tie it to anything beyond our world.

#8. OBE Experiment.

New research into out of body experiences demonstrates that simply using a video of a person and inserting a fake image of a heartbeat could be enough to trigger an experience. A group of scientists have created the experiment using virtual reality glasses that project an image of the back of a person with a simulation of glowing around the body that synchs with the person's heartbeat. In many of the tests the people actually felt as though they were leaving their physical body and were closer to their virtual ones. This is hopefully just the beginning of this type of experimentation and it might just lead scientists to accept that consciousness may be non-local and not something that is generated in our brains. The results of these initial experiments will soon be published in the Association for Psychological Science's journal Psychological Science.

Why it's in the top ten: Scientists conducting paranormal and metaphysical experimentation isn't very popular in the science world. The fact that they were able to simulate basic out of body experiences is a step toward explaining consciousness as well as how these experiences work without quickly explaining them away in a skeptical manner. Why it's only number 8: Nothing new has come from this experimentation and this work is still a long way away from explaining anything that will cause an upheaval in science. Not to mention the fact that the media pretty much ignored this story.

#7. Cattle Mutilations.

A rancher in Missouri had discovered three mutilated cows over the last three years and has exhausted most Earthly explanations. She is now accepting that these deaths may have been caused by aliens. In 2011, Lynn Mitchell discovered one of her cows dead and then noticed the tongue missing. She then realized that other vital organs were also missing including the female reproductive organs. While she did not get an expert opinion on the first two cows she quickly turned to a local veterinarian on the third which occurred recently. The vet stated that there was no trauma involved, meaning that this was not an attack of any sort and the cuts seemed to be done with surgical precision. The local County Sheriff's Chief Deputy also agreed that there didn't appear to be a wild animal involved in the kill. He also added that this could be anything from those involved in the occult to potential alien involvement. The oddest thing about this cow death is a burn mark in the grass that follows the outline of the cow. Another cow with a similar burn pattern was also discovered in the United Kingdom. Other strange mutilations including missing body parts turned up recently in Colorado, Nebraska, Idaho, and in Argentina.

Why it's in the top ten: Cattle mutilation stories aren't exactly new, but these two stories seem to defy any type of explanation and add a new dimension to traditional sightings. Why it's only number 7: These were the only two cases that appeared this year and there was virtually no coverage of this story outside of the paranormal news.

#6. Russell Crowe's UFO.

Back in March this was a big news story when a "UFO" video was uploaded to YouTube from movie star Russell Crowe. The video was really a series of photographs taken with time lapse in the Royal Botanical Gardens area of Sydney Australia. The photos, which were taken four years ago, show a bright red light in the sky and a white light lower at mid-tree level. Blurry lines seem to connect the two and it wasn't long until the mystery was solved. The photos really showed the top mast of a passing sailboat. Sailboats are required to have lights at the top of their masts and the lines are a perfect match for the rest of the rigging. Many speculate this release was in response to the lackluster push by twentieth century fox for Crowe's latest film "Broken City", which has been out in the U.S. for over a month just made its debut in Australia. The film stars Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, and Catherine-Zeta Jones. I saved my movie money for Iron Man three.

Why it's in the top ten: This was a very popular story in the media and despite the explanation it continued to have a life of its own until the explanation was accepted by the general public. Why it was only number 6: it was the mast of a boat.

#5. Magical Car Accident Priest.

This was a story that I did not initially cover when it happened because I felt the truth was not going to be as exciting as the viral story. Yet, this story gained so much attention that I felt it was necessary to talk about it during my show. During a head-on collision in Missouri a young woman became trapped in her vehicle and rescue workers tried feverishly to free her. Suddenly, a priest appeared out of nowhere and brought calm to the entire situation. Miraculously, the tools that had been malfunctioning suddenly worked and the woman was in complete calm. As the workers turned to thank the priest he was nowhere to be found. The roads had been closed off for a half mile in each direction and there was no way the man could have gotten there on foot. Was this a story of divine intervention? A true miracle? Well, not really. Many of the so-called facts that happened during this event were reported incorrectly. Reverend Patrick Dowling parked less than 150 feet away from the accident and was one of many first responders on scene. Not only did he stick around after helping the woman he talked to several personnel in the area and left his name with at least one of them. While this is still a nice story it is strange how it became more about believing in miracles and ghosts than about a real person being a compassionate human being.

Why it's in the top ten: This story was probably the most wide spread paranormal related story in 2013 as it was covered worldwide and took on a life of its own. Why it's only number 5: It had a logical explanation.

#4. Return and Departure of Art Bell.

After over a decade of being away from his own show it was announced that Art Bell would be returning to the airwaves in September. Art Bell left the popular "Coast to Coast A.M." show back in 2002 and was last on the air in 2010. Bell left the show due to family issues, but his new studio would be located in his home. Sirius XM Radio would host his new show on weeknights from 10 P.M. to 1 A.M. eastern which began on September 16th, the show was named "Art Bell's Dark Matter" and appeared on SiriusXM channel 104. But on November 4th rumors began to run rampant that Art Bell had canceled his show on SiriusXM after only a few weeks on the air. This message followed a statement that said �no new show tonight� on Art�s Facebook page for Dark Matter: "Sometimes when you are "all in" you win, sometimes lose. By mutual agreement Dark Matter will no longer air as of tonight." The message was posted just prior to the show being live on SiriusXM's Indie channel at 11 P.M. eastern.

"I started the show with the expectation that my listener's would be able to stream the show since most were coming from AM. They started the thirty day trial and found that it was dropping out on them every few minutes. After the 30 day trial most did not renew, why would they? Faced with paying about $180 bucks a year for something that was not working right, what would you do? So I lost my base. My show is based on call in, if all I�m left with is truck drivers with cell phones going down the road at 70 mph, well you get the idea. So I asked Sirius to allow free streaming free streaming for a year until they could fix their problems and they said no. The show was simply not viable under these conditions. Signed Art."

This basic proposal was announced during his last live show, but came as a quick shock to listeners as the live show was replaced with a rerun.

Why it's in the top ten: It's Art Bell coming out of retirement! Art Bell has been the mold for the hundreds of paranormal podcasts that flood the internet and was a beacon for those who believe in strange things before believing in strange things was cool. Why it was only number 4: Nothing major came out of this and the show was not as popular as both Bell and SiriusXM had hoped no matter what the claims were.

#3. Dr. Melba Ketchum's Effort.

The ongoing saga starring Melba Ketchum and Adrian Erickson, along with his project, has been entertaining us for quite a while and this story really began to unfold this year. The intense debate rages on over the publication of DNA information of a potential Bigfoot species by Dr. Melba Ketchum. She created a front for a Journal, DeNovo Science Journal, and has self-published the information and is charging $30 to read the full article. She denies internet rumors that she utilized sources that were fraudulent including one used as an April Fool's joke.This evidence has further verified that the information is more than likely faulty in one or more ways and does not help with the argument of whether Bigfoot actually exists.


And back at the Erickson Project camp their end of reality is unwinding just as quick as their cohort; reports continue to surface that the female Sasquatch, named Matilda, is nothing more than a modified mask of the Star Wars wookie, Chewbacca. Photos of video shot of the famed Erickson project star were quickly dissected by Bill Munns who has challenged anyone who has seen the video of the reality behind what was shown. OF course Finding Bigfoot star Matt Moneymaker has thrown himself in the middle of everything proclaiming that Matilda is in fact a real Squatch.

A press conference was called in Dallas, Texas in October by Adrian Erickson and Melba Ketchum to announce to the world that Bigfoot is indeed real once and for all. This claim was supported by high definition video of the creature in action including a closeup of a Bigfoot sleeping as well as the face of the famed Matilda, who is purportedly an older Bigfoot. Yes, this is the same information that was presented last year. The Sasquatch Genome Project, as Melba Ketchum calls her completely ridiculous pseudo-scientific effort to validate Bigfoot DNA, has set out to validate the existence of these creatures through their DNA. The biggest problem is that nothing has been peer reviewed. The so-called evidence was published by a journal that she purchased and those scientists who were willing to pay to read it have been able to tear it apart without even sampling the DNA.

What about the high definition video footage? First of the all, the footage was grainy and not very high def at all. One clip included a Bigfoot sleeping. The obvious thing here is if you are that close why was only part of the creature revealed and why is there no other evidence of this creature. Did it wake up? The Matilda close-up footage has been said to resemble Chewbacca from Star Wars fame. Are these people really trying to convince people that Bigfoot is real? Do they really believe what they are doing? Actually, the whole thing seems to stem from a movie that will soon be released by the Erickson Project.

Later in the year Ketchum and her team registered their findings with ZooBank and have attempted to register Bigfoot as an existing animal based on her DNA results. Bigfoot now has a name; homo sapiens cognatus. While ZooBank states that Ketchum's application is legitimate it does not probe into the methods that claim to have validated Bigfoot as an existing animal. This process is why she created her own scientific journal. The information behind the finding must be published in a paper describing the new species. This registration does not mean Bigfoot is real, just that Ketchum has been able to take a hoax to a whole new level. While I do believe it is possible Bigfoot is out there somewhere I truly feel this is not a scientific validation of the species and is merely another way to gain fame and attention through fraud.

Why it's in the top ten: This has been an ongoing soap opera that despite being an obvious fraudulent attempt to validate Bigfoot the story is still evolving. It has gained some attention in the general media, but it has not helped the mainstream cryptozoologists or bigfooters who are trying to uncover the reality of what is happening. Why it's only number 3: Well, it's number three since there was a lack of huge stories this year that made any true change in the paranormal or gained worldwide media attention. This story is an embarrassment similar to the Georgia Bigfoot hoax.

#2. Sky Noise.

The number one paranormal news story of 2012 continued early in January of 2013: Evansville, Indiana residents heard several booms on January seventh and eighth and authorities have no idea what the sounds are. Experts from meteorology, geology, police, homeland security, and other agencies are stumped at what the source of the noises is. Even earlier in January there were mystery booms reported in Utah, California. After a few days the Air Force stated they were doing ordinance testing and that weather conditions may have carried the sound far enough to explain the sounds. Mysterious booms have been reported for months near Guthrie, Oklahoma. No source has been determined and the noise is said to be gaining strength and heard over a larger area.

Jeffery Bruan, a Physicist based at the University of Evansville in Indiana has commented on his states ongoing investigation and said: "At this point, nobody seems to know. The geologists say it's not in the ground. The Air Force says it's not in the air. The astronomers say it's not from space. So we're running out of options."

Salem, Massachusetts has also been encountering odd booms since November of last year. A recent boom was accompanied by a bright flash. A resident checked his surveillance camera to find evidence of the flash and surprisingly had sound as well. The flash seemed to be low in the sky from the long angles of the shadows and the boom happened after a very brief pause. My conclusion is that it was caused by a meteorite entering the atmosphere and creating a sonic boom. This, however, does not explain the other noises heard in the area.

Another report from January from the Salt Lake City area of Utah where hundreds of citizens reported a series of loud booms. Also earlier this month residents in Alaska reported similar sounds near Anchorage just prior to an earthquake that registered 7.5 on the Richter scale. On January 25 strange booms were reported in Tennessee in the Morristown area about 50 miles northeast of Knoxville. No geological data was reported and the leading guess is on a potential cave collapse in the area.

Morristown, Tennessee and San Manuel Arizona reported a series of earth shaking booms a few days prior to the February 15th meteor events. Similar reports in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico, California, Florida, and even New Zealand have reported light flashes and booms in the last couple of weeks and another dozen or more in the last few months.

A strange set of tremors across the state of New Jersey are defying any explanation. The tremors were not earthquakes, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and they were not the result of military aircraft creating sonic booms. Military aircraft were apparently grounded at the time of the tremors and a sonic boom would not explain the widespread tremors. The tremors were strong enough to knock pictures off the wall and get the attention of many people who experienced it.

Meanwhile, a single loud boom was heard in southern Illinois last week. The boom was not weather related, not an earthquake, and is not thought to be a sonic boom. The boom was heard over four counties and was enough to knock pictures off the wall and was described as ground shaking by many who experienced it. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin; the source of loud booms heard in the city of Clintonville that were heard over the course of three days has been explained. The source, experts say, is a magnitude 1.5 earthquake followed by smaller quakes in the area. While such a small quake is usually not felt, experts state that the rock in this area is old and well consolidated and allows for the sound waves to travel easily.

The last two weeks of March included multiple reports in Louisville and Fort Knox Kentucky, Idaho, Rhode Island, Illinois, New Jersey, and multiple counties in Florida of strange booms have been documented. In all of these cases there were no rational or geological explanations.

The first week of April there were over 30 reports that flooded in to Branch County, Michigan authorities. The multiple booms were thought to be someone breaking into homes of some people who contacted 911, others thought the local Air Force base might have something to do with them. So far no logical conclusion has been found for this latest in the series of strange booms.

Meanwhile, north of Branch County in Flint Michigan; strange booms have been reported for years in this area. Theirs now have an explanation; it seems the police have had a secret bombing range where the bomb squad practices and where ordinance that is recovered is exploded. Hopefully the training the bomb squad does is OK and the booms are not signs of someone cutting the wrong wire.

And reported in mid-May, strange booms were heard in the city of Onaway, Michigan. The booms, felt over the course of a couple of days, were felt within a 15 mile area. So far no explanation has been found although the local news blamed the booms on local iron works. Onaway residents as well as employees of the iron works state that there was no way it was responsible for the booms. A second boom was felt nearly 190 miles away in Columbiaville, Michigan which was reportedly followed by military jets flying through the sky. Not sure what that connection might be or if there would be one at all, but these mystery booms are being reported all over the world at an alarming rate. While many of them are explainable there are a sizable chunk that are not.

Residents in Terrace, British Columbia have been hearing some eerie sky noise over a few days in early September. Residents called local radio and television stations, police, and other authorities to report the strange sounds. Many felt as if this was the end of the world. A professor of physics states that these sounds are nothing more than electromagnetic noise emitted from radiation belts and auroras. Well, never mind that these noises have never been documented by any scientist to date. One woman, Kimberly Wookey has uploaded several videos to YouTube and many locals reported hearing the same thing. Some skeptics are saying this is just a hoax or that there is a simple mechanical explanation for all of this.

And on November 29th, a few mysterious booms were heard in Connecticut which felt like an earthquake to many. This is not a complete list...

Why it's in the top ten: Sky Noise has been gaining momentum as one of the most widely reported unexplained phenomena. It's not as popular in the media as it was last year and is seemingly cooling with paranormal news outlets, but localized reports buzz with heavy interest. While many of these events have explanations there are many more that remain a mystery. Sky noise was the number one story from 2012 and is showing no signs of slowing down. Why it's only number two: There is a story that's just a little bit better.

#1. Bryan Sykes DNA Study.

Bryan Sykes, a professor of human genetics at Harvard University, conducted DNA analysis on several samples said to be of Bigfoot origin. Sykes has a good reputation in the science and genetics world so all bigfooters anxiously awaited his announcement and publication of the evidence. Sykes appeared on television on November 17 on the National Geographic Channel with a show called, "Bigfoot the New Evidence" to publicly display his findings of some famous Bigfoot cases. The biggest of which was Sykes and his team have determined that Yeti hair collections point toward a brown bear and polar bear hybrid. The samples were compared to an ancient bear and found similarities, Sykes feels these hairs may be part of a new species of bear that are descendants of these ancient bears and are not related to the current Himalayan bears. Loren Coleman, who also appeared in the show, states that Sykes' findings may explain one of the three types of Yeti claimed to be seen in the Himalayan mountains. Sykes also validated the Justin Smeja hair as a bear despite the earlier claims of Melba Ketchum. Sykes also used real science to determine the reality of many other Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and Yeti claims.

Why it's number one: This is a story of not only Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti, it's also about real science. This wasn't an attempt to debunk Bigfoot claims but an attempt to bring true science to the world of cryptozoology to get to the bottom of many claims of Bigfoot findings. While Melba Ketchum and Jeff Meldrum are the biggest scientific names in the world of Bigfoot it's good to see someone a bit more objective come in and look at the evidence.

While many have their opinions as to what the top ten are I set my personal feelings aside for these stories and looked at them as objectively as possible. I did my best to sort these stories not just by popularity, but also with impact on the field and their usefulness going forward. The Paranormal News Insider has been broadcast since August of 2008 as a show-within-a-show during the Grand Dark Conspiracy Podcast and has survived a few moves of networks. The show went from a monthly format to a weekly format in 2010 and has remained until now (185 shows). In November, 2013, it was announced that the Grand Dark Conspiracy would take a short hiatus, but as of now in January there are no plans to bring the show back. I have been contemplating several potential moves to keep the Paranormal News Insider alive and well...

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October 16, 2013

What is the best evidence of ghosts?

Time MagazineMany people in the paranormal field may be shocked when I state that ghosts do not exist. They do not exist merely because science has yet to accept them as part of the scientific realm. While they are acknowledged as part of the human experience we have been unable to verify them as a “real” phenomenon. So what will it take to prove once and for all that they are real?

When one ponders the question of “what will the best evidence of ghosts be?” a few things quickly come to mind. We tend to think immediately of our experiences and everyday attempts to find the answer to “are ghosts real?” Would that evidence be an end-all be-all photograph of a familiar former living person? Might it be an EVP that sends a specific message from the other side? Or would it be something else?

To truly answer this question we would have to first weigh the potential for each type of possible pieces of evidence that scientists would be able to validate ghosts with. One obvious problem would be repeating some of these pieces of evidence enough to be able to convince scientists that this was not just something random or coincidental. Ghost investigators seem to feel strongly about photographs, video, and audio to be the sturdiest pieces of evidence despite the inability to repeat any of them under similar circumstances or under more controlled conditions.

There are many photographs of purported ghosts floating around the internet. Ghost photographs have been popular as long as the photograph medium has been around. The biggest problem with ghost or spirit photographs is manipulation. Ghost photographs were manipulated back in the 1800’s during the Spiritualism Era and the height of belief in the afterlife. There are many photographs from as far back as the late 1800’s that are still the subject of debate as to their authenticity (see the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall from 1936). Brown Lady of Raynham HallAs technology has changed from 35MM film to digital one would think it would become easier to reveal a fake photograph, unfortunately it has become much easier to create fakes than it is to determine one as being fake. There are many ways to determine a photo as being manipulated such as the appearance of blurry or tampered pixels, but really no way to determine if a photograph is “genuinely a ghost” as many claim. A photograph can only be determined as more than likely not manipulated, but this does not take into consideration pareidolia, reflections, or other visual or mechanical affects that can create curious visual phenomena.

Another major problem with visual medium is the high probability that ghosts are not tangible beings and would not be able to be photographed. Popular definition of ghosts by parapsychologists suggests that ghosts are manifestations of mental phenomena and are perceived as real by the living, but are not actually physically present. These “hallucinations” appear due to either extra sensory perception or through psychokinesis or a combination of senses that have not been validated by science to even exist. The other half of this also stems from psychokinesis in that it is possible that photographs can be mentally manipulated by psychokinesis and create various images from fogging to words and anything in-between.

So, what about audio? Electronic voice phenomena is one of the most popular aspects of paranormal investigation as well with clients who desire to “validate” their own personal experiences. To many these recordings of whispers is proof positive that ghosts truly exist and are capable of communicating after the death of the body. The big problem with EVP is that these voices are typically noises that are audible forms of pareidolia. Even with audible words there is some concern as to where or how these sounds are being recorded. If groups were to worry more about isolating the sounds as they were with what they are supposedly saying there might be a little more credibility toward EVP as being something legitimate. With any sound the goal should be determing where it is coming from; this act will help eliminate most of the false positive information. A single recorder would be severely limited in determining the source location of a sound and is highly suspect to noises created by handling, movement, distortion due to amplification, and other effects that relate the sound as different from what was heard through the ears. I have used an H2 Zoom for many years and as it helps determine a direction yet even it is unable to determine a source location. Multiple recorders would be needed to determine source beyond mere direction. If groups utilized multiple recorders in a single area they might realize that EVPs are not as common as many think and are not as reliable as many claim them to be.

So what else is there? What about the flashlight thing? The flashlight trick is when a flashlight is unscrewed to a certain point where the bulb shuts off. The flashlight is then used as a medium of sorts for a “ghost” to manipulate through questioning. I have seen this in action and admit it looks pretty convincing, but it boils down to real science. The big problem is that this flashlight trick is just that; a trick. When the flashlight is unscrewed and contact points severed the cooling and heating effects will rejoin and then sever the contact points at fairly predictable moments.

OK, so ghost boxes, Ovilus and other radio sweepers and random word generators must be real, right? Many groups swear that these devices give so much information about cases that they feel these pieces of equipment have already validated the existence of ghosts. Yet again, these are merely tricks. These devices usually come with the warning that they are for entertainment use only (or they should at least). Radio sweepers merely provide random words and random word generators are pre-programmed to provide words and phrases that relate to ghost hunting. Take one to a child’s birthday party if you don’t believe me. Regardless what one thinks about these devices there is no way to validate that ghosts are able to manipulate these devices to provide us with information about them.

So what’s left?

To properly answer this question we should probably start from the other side. What could be the worst way to validate a ghost? Other than the technological devices we have discussed I would say that a subjective experience would be the worst way to “validate” that ghosts exist. While a personal experience is usually very real there is no way to replicate or validate the personal experience despite the desperate hope of clients and investigators worldwide. Humans make very bad witnesses to events and our memories work against us remembering details that happen during events we are not prepared for.  Despite this, groups all over the world go to homes and other locations where ghosts have been sighted and attempt to have their own personal experiences.

The best way to validate a ghost would be a combination of personal experience and some type of device that would measure the experience as well as the environmental factors in which it was created. A way for a device to capture exactly what we see (not just a recording like a camera, but through the eye and the brain interpretation) would benefit ghost researchers, but also brain researchers who study diseases such as epilepsy that cause hallucinations similar to ghosts (which would take away from validation). If said device could find the location in the brain where these experiences happen and we could determine how such a connection to the environment is made we could then possibly manipulate the environment and/or brain to create such an experience. Ghost researchers are always pointed toward the ghost and assume that validation will come from their side. Since we lack the understanding of how specific information comes from the environment from the death of a once living person we should focus on the living side of how they are able to obtain this information.Consciousness

Until then, the best type of ghost validation would be through a personal experience. Wait, isn’t that the same as a subjective experience? Yes, but until we can solve some riddles of the brain (like where consciousness truly comes from and how ESP and PK work for starters) we are stuck in limbo with our personal experiences alone. While these experiences are typically one time deals many people do have recurring events happening to them. While many times there are logical explanations for the recurring part there are some that do have the ability to repeat these events.

If a method of repeatability were created where conditions were formed for favorable paranormal experiences we might have a chance for many different people to experience the same thing. This repeatability would be subject to heavy scrutiny and will have to be formed on a fine line of science and using open-minded techniques since it has been demonstrated that the more focus of scrutiny lowers the probability of paranormal phenomena. As I have stated on this blog before I have created the “E4” Method of client-based paranormal investigations. This method uses the focus of repeatable paranormal phenomena under controlled conditions for specific types of phenomena. This method uses a blend of spiritualism, psychology, parapsychology, scientific methodology, the Ghost Excavation method pioneered by John Sabol, as well as advanced interview techniques placed on a foundation of skeptical concerns.






Brown Lady of Raynham Hall examination

Brown Lady of Raynham Hall exposed

Electronic Voice Phenomena: Voices of the Dead?

Flashlight trick explained

The Ovilus - 21st Century Snake Oil

The "Ghost Box" Fraud (with comments by creator Frank Sumption)

The Problem with Eyewitness Testimony

The "E4" Method

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May 29, 2013

Spring Research Outing with the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society

I was invited along as a guest to the spring outing of the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society lead by Eric Altman. The expedition would include around 30 extra participants (free event, but we paid our own expenses) who served as observers, researchers, trackers, and witnesses during the two day search for signs of Bigfoot and puma. The core of the PBS was there to facilitate the event and make sure that we all got what we came for.


I arrived at the Keystone State Park area on Friday, May 17 at around 2 P.M. in the warm spring sun. I pulled into site #73 at the hillside campground area that was about ¼ mile from the lake. I chose this site as it was only two sites away from the site of Eric Altman which served as the main base for the weekend. I quickly set up my small 6’X6’ tent, set up my day pack, checked my recording devices one last time and grabbed a quick snack before heading over to start the excursion. We were briefed as to what to expect, what we were doing, where we were going, and introduced ourselves to the rest of the group. We were then free to explore Keystone State Park and grab dinner before heading out on the first night excursion.

Keystone State Park is a 1,200 acre park in Westmoreland County near Derry Township in southwest Pennsylvania, about 40 minutes east of Pittsburgh. The centerpiece of the park is the 78 acre manmade lake (Keystone Lake) that was built in the early 1900’s for use in the production of Coke (not the drink) which is partially burned coal used to produce steel. The land was purchased by the state of Pennsylvania in 1945, but a mine close to the property lasted until 1953. The campground I was sleeping in was resting just above a catacomb of mines that were dug underneath it from the nearby hillside where an old cave entrance was sealed off. The area itself is chocked full of Bigfoot and UFO sightings and is only 16 miles from Kecksburg where a famous potential UFO crash incident took place in 1965.

Keystone Lake

Our first part of the expedition would take us out of the park into the surrounding area just west of the Allegheny Mountains. I joined up with group of guys that drove up a mountainous area to meet up with another group along a dirt road about a mile from the closest home. The two teams decided to split up and our team headed up a dirt road to a high point in the area where we would spend the next few hours. The guys I was with had never done any type of investigation and I quickly found myself as the one that was looked up to as the “lead” of sorts. ScatThe PBS member that came with the other group decided to stay behind along the road with the other group, but we were tethered together with a walkie talkie. I set up digital recorders along the road (which was along private property, so we could only use the road) to the southwest, northeast, as well as one a hundred feet out along a hillside away from where we stationed ourselves.

A Bigfoot “hunt”, “Squatch Watch”, or whatever you want to call it, is very similar to a ghost hunt where there is a lot of sitting, waiting, and a bit of interaction with the environment. We heard plenty of owls, saw some deer, but never heard anything else that night. At around 12:30 A.M. we were asked by the other group to come back down and I retrieved my recorders, packed up my chair and the four of us made our way back to the road full of disappointment, but still excited about that we had staked out the area and would have two more chances.

One thing about camping in a tent is that you really come to realize just how early the sun comes up and how even earlier it becomes really light outside. For me, I was out in the open and I was exposed to the light. Luckily, I had brought a sleep mask which gave me about an extra hour and a half of rest before the birds and the campground began to make enough noise. We met at 10:30 A.M. at the main camp and were given our direction to conduct hikes in various areas. I joined a different group of people, including Ghost Hunter’s International’s Rosalyn Bown. The six of us went to the same location I had been at the night before, but drove about 1/8 of a mile west and hiked down the opposite side of the road. We saw plenty of scat, more than likely from coyote, but nothing else out of the ordinary. It turned out to be a two mile hike through the woods culminating with another mile walking up the dirt road in a tiring finish; literally walking up the dirt road toward the top of the hill the entire way. We stopped at a small local bar on the way back to the campground, but not being a big drinker as well as knowing I was probably already dehydrated from hiking all day, I sat and had water. Rosalyn and I talked some shop and sipped our waters; it was a great end to the first part of Saturday.


Saturday night brought on an interesting excursion; Eric had all 30 plus attendees in addition to his team going to the same location. We drove in a convoy for the majority of the way before stopping along a dirt road. The road back to the investigation site was rocky and flooded in many spots. The only way in was either to hike or bus us in via 4X4s. We chose the latter and took two pickup trucks back about a half mile and then walked back another ¼ mile to a central meeting point. One group would stay at that spot while other groups would fan out to general areas in specific directions. I went with a guy named Joe who had not worked with PBS in a while, but certainly knew his stuff. We walked back about another ½ mile or so and set up our own minicamp with our chairs.

I decided to continue to hike down one of the paths to see what was south of us. The sun was set and it was beginning to get dark out, but I had yet to bust out any of my flashlights. As had been the habit I scanned the ground as I walked while glancing into the surrounding area for movement. My eye noticed a dark patch of dirt surrounded by old leaves which I scanned for tracks but found none. A few feet further I noticed another smaller spot of dirt that resembled the shape of a foot. I laughed to myself for thinking it was a footprint, but I as I knelt down and felt around I noticed a slight heel impression as well as potential toes. I was a little excited, but I fought to control any excitement as I figured it was merely Pareidolia or wishful thinking. I rushed back to the site to get Joe and the group to come down and take a look. We searched for prints ahead of and behind it, but found none. He was optimistic that it could have been a track, but was obviously old. We both concluded that it was inconclusive, but it was still a thrilling moment to find something that just might have been.

Potential imprint

As the night settled in each group took turns call blasting. Joe demonstrated the various yells and whoops he used and we listened for responses. Other groups used recorded baby sounds, wood knocking as well as various calls. At one point we heard a quick succession of knocks from behind us just as Joe gave off a whoop. We all knew it was not a woodpecker and another group had heard it as well. It was again inconclusive evidence, but again it was an exciting moment. Overall I was impressed with how the groups communicated with each other and how the weekend was run. While it was just a random search for Bigfoot and big cat evidence we all had a fantastic time. Even though cryptozoology offers tangible evidence I realize just how elusive physical evidence can be as nature has a way of hiding its secrets. The Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society will conduct a fall expedition October 4-6, 2013 in a location to be determined.

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December 2, 2012

The Science of Ghost Hunting and Paranormal Investigation IV: Science and Technology

"…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth". –Sherlock Holmes “The Sign of Four” (and variations in several other books)

Sir Arthur Conan DoyleSir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes was definitely ahead of his time when it came to science. His methods predated those used in real forensic science and his way of solving crimes was based on simple logic and observation. Ironically, this quote is typically used to qualify a paranormal group as "scientific" as well as to “verify” a photo, video, or personal event as “paranormal” since no definitive explanation was immediately found, however this search may not include all possibilities since it is limited to those present and may even be the intended result without searching for the reality. If this “evidence” is provided to the public and when an avenue is mentioned by a third party there is typically a defensive posture – so no logical explanation is usually accepted once the person has stamped “paranormal” on the purported evidence. Many paranormal teams use this quote as a basis for their scientific approach toward the paranormal despite not being able to realize all of the possibilities at hand (a logical fallacy) before coming to a conclusion (can we ever anyway?). Typing the term “scientific based paranormal team” into any search engine will create millions of results, but what constitutes a scientific based team?

For some teams the answer is simply the technology. These groups claim that since the technology they are using are scientific tools they are using science or are at least scientific-based. Parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach once said you can teach a monkey how to use an EMF detector, but that doesn't make it a scientist. To other teams it is simply avoiding Ouija Boards, séances, and psychics during investigations, avoiding “feelings” and instead using “observations” and “readings” (all of which can be subjective or objective depending upon how you approach it and many of these teams simply use the same subjective ghost-hunt-in-the-dark approach. I say tomato, you say to-mah-to), and using methods of debunking rather than trying to “prove” a ghost exists. This last explanation is always the most interesting. How hard can it be to prove a ghost doesn’t exist? Then again, how does a ghost group prove a ghost exists in the first place since science still does not accept that ghosts actually exist?

Trying to find data that goes against one’s theory is a basic tenet of science, but is it enough to be able to call oneself a science-based team?

"It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts." – Sherlock Holmes “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Bohemia”

The act of “hunting” ghosts itself is the first big red flag. A true scientist would never put oneself in the middle of an experiment as this creates a subjective environment and this would be frowned upon by fellow scientists. While there are many teams that do go about things skeptically most teams are already armed with the belief and hope that they will encounter something paranormal and this alone creates an unscientific foundation.Sherlock Holmes An observation by a friend of mine was that if a group claims to be skeptical and looking to “disprove” first, why are they a ghost investigation group? Shouldn’t they be a skeptical organization? I have already written a blog entry on “The Skeptical Reality of Ghost Hunting” based on Benjamin Radford’s skeptical, yet accurate, view on how ghost hunting is full of flaws and science is barely used. So how do we fix these problems?

"You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear." – Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Bohemia”

The honest answer is to throw out what doesn’t work, keep what does, and fill in the rest with a scientific based approach to doing things. So, what has to go? The biggest issue is the use of tools and technology. These tools are used to gather evidence of ghosts, but what about the people who experienced them and the environment in which they encountered it in? How can we validate with tools that are meant for other uses and gather data about something we have no scientific proof even exists? The technology use is further clouded by the use of tools that are simply created for entertainment use that are used as the foundation for communication and evidene (Ovilus, radio sweepers, ghost box, Frank's Box, etc.). The approach of looking for ghosts was for the most part abandoned by Psychical Research back in the early 1900s. People like Joseph Banks Rhine realized that the pursuit of ghosts only created more questions and the collection of case studies would only carry the field so far. They decided to look for the cause to the effect and began studying the living person’s connection to the environment and attempted to measure their ability to receive information or express control over the environment (ESP and PK).Handcuffs Granted, this move was also made to satisfy the scientific world which has since handcuffed Parapsychology since it is obvious that paranormal events exist outside known laws of science and needs to be approached a bit differently than standard scientific models (not by investigating like Scooby Doo). Many people view Parapsychologists as professionals who study ghosts and while this may be true it should be understood that a majority of Parapsychologists don’t study ghosts at all. Parapsychologists have realized it is next to impossible to validate what ghosts are through observational and case study methods alone. Should ghost hunters just quit?

The obvious answer is no, but we cannot continue to use the methods put into place by the television shows (along with their glorification through the internet) which have been molding the culture of ghost investigation since 2004. The television shows alone cannot be blamed for the direction of the field since it’s up to those who participate to actually put the culture into place and dictate the direction through practice. Pre-2004 this field was not very scientific to begin with as folklore held a high majority of belief systems in place, but now pseudoscience prevails and it seems that common sense and logic are lacking in the ranks. Do you honestly think Sherlock Holmes would stumble around in the dark by candle light to find evidence of what is going on behind paranormal claims? Actually, if Holmes existed in this day and age in books he would more than likely be a hardcore skeptic and not accept paranormal claims at all (Patrick Jane on "The Mentalist" television show would be a great example).

"…while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty. You can, for example, never foretell what any one man will do, but you can say with precision what an average number will be up to. Individuals vary, but percentages remain constant. So says the statistician." – Sherlock Holmes, “The Sign of Four”

The technology has always been the trusted sidekick, but now it seems to be the source of concentration for investigations. Science is not several Pelican cases full of tools, it’s not wearing matching black shirts with a fancy logo containing a catchy acronymic group name, it’s not about creating an environment that produces little in the way of control, a “Scooby-Doo” mentality to “catching ghosts in the act”, or using folkloric methods such as turning the lights off and cutting power or “hunting” during a full/new moon or during solar events. Despite many claims and the firm belief in many of these approaches nothing ghost investigators do has ever been proven to be more effective than simple observation of the client in their natural environment. This is the major root of the problem. Investigators want to be in the middle of the action and have their own experience especially since the client wants “validation” of their experiences. They rely on the pieces of technology to verify what they want to believe and become immersed in false positive data in an attempt to create their own fantasy world around the fears of those who need help. Basically, many groups just want to do what they see on television and misrepresent technology to suit their beliefs in the paranormal. Some groups grasp at any new piece of technology not for its scientific use, but its claim to be able to generate more “evidence” despite major flaws against it working as advertised. This might not be their intention and I’m sure many investigators have already navigated away from this blog before the end of this sentence. We have all seen this before, something new comes out and before any real testing or shakedown has occurred there is “evidence” to support the tool. As more “evidence” piles up the piece of technology is “validated” and everyone jumps on the blind bandwagon. Again, tools do not equal science! Science is a process, it’s how we use the tools and how we control the environment (a lockdown does not equal control), and how we observe the environment.

Objective versus Subjective"It is of the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize, out of a number of facts, which are incidental and which vital. Otherwise your energy and attention must be dissipated instead of being concentrated." – Sherlock Holmes “The Reigate Puzzle”

Pre-2004 ghost hunting and paranormal investigation were two separate approaches in the field of ghost research. Now they are blended together and the approach of ghost hunting has been adopted into the client-centered arena. Is it the problem of the television shows? No, again, it is the culture created by those in the field that has caused this. I honestly feel that groups do this since they just don’t have a clue how to do it any other way. I found my way early on as I came into this field through reading about Parapsychology. I was more or less a skeptic coming into this field and slowly morphed into a true believer before coming back to reality with an even-keeled approach. Many people see me as a skeptic, but this is only because this field lacks discipline and skepticism. Skepticism is a necessary tenet in a scientific discipline and if you cannot problem solve your own evidence you should not be problem solving for total strangers and suggest how they live in their home.

"Data! Data! Data!" he cried impatiently. "I can't make bricks without clay." – Sherlock Holmes, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”

I had my own way of doing things for years as far as investigation methods. I based my methods on what I knew about Parapsychology and basic science. I had opportunities at my various jobs to learn how to interview people and I applied this knowledge to my approach as well as learned as much as I could from other resources about other approaches. Over the years my group unconsciously drifted into the typical approach and I slowly realized I had lost control of the direction of the group. Last year I woke up and realized I had to make some changes, get back to how I used to do things, and make a better effort to create improved methods of investigating. There has been a lot of talk about how things are not done right, but very few people stand up and say how to do it. So, earlier this year I stood up and announced my revised “Client-centered paranormal research” method which I call the “E4 Method”.

"What one man can invent another can discover." – Sherlock Holmes “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”E4 Method

I announced this approach at the First Forensic Ghost Excavation Congress Convention on June 24, 2012, in Brunswick, Maryland to a crowd of diverse backgrounds and experience. The method was well received by those who have been in the field for a long time as well as by many who were fairly new and hungry for a new direction. I felt this approach was even more justified when George P. Hansen, who worked at Parapsychology labs for almost a decade, pulled me aside after my presentation and told me it felt like old times and that I was truly on the right path. Is this the best method ever created? Probably not, but I have spent a lot of time reviewing past cases and attempting to create a method that was easy to reproduce by other groups, but had a better direction that subjective investigation methods. The “E4 Method” is based on Parapsychological methods, the Ghost Excavation method created by John Sabol, psychological aspects, interviewing skills, and a lot more. I am just putting the bricks created by others together to create this method. I still have many details to finish, but the foundation has been built.

The basis of the “E4 Method” is eliminate, establish, enlist, and engage. Eliminate the subjective paranormal investigation. This means put down the tools; stop putting yourself in the middle of the investigation and step back to observe the case instead of being the center of attention. Establish, this means focusing on specific reactions caused by specific events. Instead of asking for knocks, responses, looking for shadows or any of the other multitude of paranormal events one should replicate the events that happened with the client and set up the investigation around a specific type of paranormal event. Enlist the client; they are the reason you were called and the events are typically tied to them. Use their past experience to your advantage and help them cope by involving them in the process instead of being a bystander. Engage the environment, not ghosts. The goal with ghost investigations should not be to investigate the ghost, but to investigate the client and their connection to the environment. The ghost is just the byproduct of the connection, so why does it go ignored?

This has been a lot of work, but there is still far more work to be conducted.

To review my new method: "E4 Method" Site

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March 28, 2011

EVP Experiments: Upping the ante for evidence

Audio recording technology has come a long way since I started out in 1996. My first recorder was a small radio sized recorder (sometimes called a shoebox recorder) shoebox recorderthat used regular cassette tapes. One tape could record 30 or 45 minutes per side with two sides, but the rule was to not record on both sides as “bleeding” of voices or noises could potentially occur. The tapes produced their own white noise in the form of a mild hiss along with any mechanical sounds of the recorder which were usually recorded unless a separate microphone was used and the recorder hidden.    One learned quickly how to lubricate the device to keep these noises to a minimum or buy an external microphone. Working a case would usually mean buying a handful of tapes, although I usually bought a ten pack box of TDK 90 tapes and had plenty of those boxes stacked up, my how times have changed.

Digital audio voice recorders were available in the mid-1990s, but most of them were very expensive and there was a large internal debate in the ghost field as to whether they might capture evidence as good as regular analog recorders could. The upside to these digital recorders were plentiful; you didn’t have to rely on tapes, you didn’t have to forward wind or rewind the tapes, and they had the capability of being hooked up to a computer or other recording device to transfer the audio footage for better interpretation.

As the technology became more commonplace (and prices dropped) the old technology was slowly replaced and those who argued that the new technology was inferior became the minority.  As digital audio recorders are now the majority we must be aware of the shortcomings of this recorder Many of the same issues with the old technology are still a part of the new. Along with the technology itself the greatest issue with this machinery is how it’s misused by many in the paranormal field.

Many are tempted to turn up the microphone sensitivity to high in order to capture any sounds that may be too low to hear with the human ear. The big issue with turning up sensitivity is that you are making the microphone hyper sensitive to everything. This amplification can make sounds seem different than how you hear them and can create audible pareidolia, which are noises that are interpreted as words. A creaky board may make little sound when you hear it, but it will sound different on the recorder and can be mistakenly interpreted as a voice.

Another common mistake I see a lot of is investigators walking around with a digital recorder in their There are two issues with this; first, walking around a location will expose the recorder to a variety of noises. These noises can be interpreted later on in a number of different ways, especially if not they are not recorded in a notebook or dictated into the microphone. Even standing still can create creaks under your feet that you may forget about later or may barely hear while you are onsite. Even an external microphone can be prone to sounds of movement. I typically wear one at all times and come to expect noises from time to time. Holding the recorder creates a whole other issue. The act of holding the recording can create an array of sounds that can easily fool someone into thinking an EVP has been captured. The muffled movement of the recorder in the hand will not be heard but can create some interesting noises. Another piece of technology close by or a ring on the hand can produce feedback on the recorder that might produce strange noises as well. Even placing a recorder on a table or the floor will amplify sounds that are unheard by the ear and can be later interpreted as paranormal although a logical explanation exists (try using an external microphone with a stand). Many still think that the act of using this piece of technology is scientific although science is a process not a tool or event.

Prior to using any piece of technology it should be thoroughly tested in a variety of conditions and determined if it will be a good fit for specific types of research. With a digital recorder, it should be used with a variety of settings in various types of rooms and be tested with varying noises at different distances to establish some sort of baseline for the recorder (if you don’t know what normal sounds like, how can you determine what paranormal sounds like?). While this can be done after an experiment, it helps if you are already acclimated to what the recorder sounds like before conducting research with it.

So, what’s the best way to use these things?

The key to investigating using a digital recorder should not just be centered on recording a paranormal voice, but finding out where the voice came from. This cannot be done with a lone recorder and in order to triangulate a noise you would need a minimum of three recorders. The more recorders you use the more likely you will be able to find the source of a noise. I recommend using more than three, but not necessarily all in the same room. Finding the source of the noise will help you eliminate contamination as a possible cause and will support your claim as long as you are documenting the scene and have even more audio to back this up. Getting a really cool voice on the recorder might be your goal, but without anything to back up your claim it’s nothing more than a subjective experience despite being recorded.

When conducting an EVP vigil it would be wise to place a recorder in every corner of the room, and again do not lay them flat or leave an external microphone close to a surface. By placing the recorder microphones in a specific direction (or using omnidirectional external microphones) you will have a higher chance of recording something anomalous, but it doesn’t stop there. The microphones should overlap in coverage by pointing up and toward the center of the room, not necessarily directly to the middle, but in that general direction. There should also be recorders running just outside of the room as well and just outside the window of a room as well. The Zoom H2 eliminates the need for multiple recorders to some extent. This recorder has the ability to record in stereo in two separate tracks at the same time.H2Zoom The Zoom H2 has a front and rear speaker that records with left and right channels. I have conducted a lot of experiments with this recorder in various parts of various types of rooms and while it’s amazing I still recommend using a various recorders separately versus one that records in multiple tracks.

There should be someone listening and physically recording sounds as they hear them on a piece of paper including time, location, and duration. This person should be close enough to the room that they can hear what is happening, but not necessarily being right in the middle of the room itself. As human beings we tend to make a lot of noises from our basic bodily functions to the movement of our joints and bones. There should be at least one other investigator outside of this area that is in direct observation of this investigator. The job of this person is merely to keep on eye on the person closest to the investigation target area. This isn’t to thwart a fraud, but it provides another step in supporting claims of the paranormal.  Another investigator should be set up with a similar array in a different room to serve as a control area in case outside noises (airplanes, cars, voices outside, etc.) are recorded. Why have anyone there at all? First, while many groups conduct great research in sealed rooms the concept surrounding ghosts is based on interaction with the living. Second, this living person also serves as a backup to the documentation being conducted by the recorder and the person watching the investigator closest to the room serves as an objective witness.

This point of documentation brings up an important issue to investigating which is using lights. It has become the culture of ghost groups to turn off the lights during investigations, but this practice has been imitated from television shows that do this for the thrill factor of the viewing audience and despite many varying claims it does not heighten ghost interaction or your senses. By being able to see what is in the room will you be able to quickly identify noises (oh, and EVP sessions need not be done solely at night either).

When I conduct an investigation I usually take a digital recorder and record everything I do using a lapel microphone. This comes in handy when you are in the dark (again, not recommended but sometimes necessary) or are concentrating on something and do not have the time to take written notes. I also carry some sort of set of notes and document the time, what people are doing, where they are, what noises I hear from where and more throughout the investigation. Just sitting in a room asking questions into a recorder is not enough to confirm that something that was recorded was paranormal.

The more documentation and attempt to isolate the noises within the room the better chance your evidence will stick or at least you will be able to quickly find a logical solution for. Another aspect of using digital recorders is reviewing as soon as possible. Real time recording and listening is still a new thing, but the technology isn’t where it needs to be yet. As many know there is typically a long pause between a question and answer. A device that can record and then play back audio around a minute or longer (while continuing to record) would be a significant tool. One method I use to hear what the recorder hears is to simply plug in a set of headphones on a recorder that is running. Doing so will allow you to hear what the recorder hears, but not what it is recording (paranormal noises are thought to be “imprinted” and not actually heard). This allows you to get a better sense of how noises are being “interpreted” by the recorder versus what you hear with your ears; many times I am amazed at how certain sounds can become deceiving.

Recorder layoutBy having a stock pile of recorders you can easily replace one recorder in the room with another and begin to review one that was originally in the room. Whenever placing recorders into a location be sure to audibly note the time, date, location, and area within the location on the recorder and write down what recorder and folder within the recorder is being used. Documenting where the recorder will be used along with what folder beforehand can save you time (creating an investigation plan will as well) and during this time you should also verify the batteries are fresh and the recorders are working properly (all equipment should have a pre-operational checklist). When using a lot of recorders it is necessary to label the recorders for easier documentation.

Most groups live and die with their evidence review. For many, the rule of thumb is to start reviewing evidence as soon as possible after the investigation and have it gone through within 72 hours. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work for all groups and even those with an army of people may have a hard time getting everything processed within a couple of weeks. This is one thing that has never made sense to me; why do we bother trying to communicate with something only to wait days or weeks to listen for a response and especially when we are no longer at the location? There is nothing wrong with pulling recorders to review as EVP sessions should be kept to under a half hour anyway, although I do suggest keeping a few random recorders running throughout the investigation site for longer durations. These recorders should be mainly be used to document the investigation process to confirm or deny the presence of contamination or false positive sounds, but can also be reviewed for evidence as long as the site is being documented for contamination. Just be sure to periodically state the time into these recorders and verify the batteries are still alive.

When should you pull a recorder? Whenever you are conducting an investigation and you get a response (knock, moving object, etc.) or are able to get multiple sources (subjective experience, EMF spike, etc.) that get abnormal signals it may be a sign that something unexplainable is happening. An EVP could have been recorded and this information can be the difference between an “Oh man!” moment days later or genuine connection to life after death. Of course, using a dozen recorders can amount to a lot of additional evidence review time!

No one ever said science was easy.

(Note: the photo above right is a rough diagram of how I might lay out a room with recorders and investigators. Obviously there may be more or less recorders in different spots.)


Want a better way to classify EVPs? Check out this classification system by Doug Kelley and Jari Mikkola.

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December 28, 2011

The Top 10 Paranormal News Stories of 2011

The Paranormal News Insider is a short paranormal news segment that is aired during the Grand Dark Conspiracy podcast on the Shark Radio Network every Monday night at 10 P.M. eastern. While the Paranormal News Insider has been on the air since 2008 this is just the second year of creating the list of top ten stories.  When looking at these stories I look at how big the story became; how was it carried in the media and social media beyond the paranormal circles? How long did it circulate? Did the story evolve over time? I’ll also look at the story and determine if it had a valuable impact on the paranormal or anomalous topics. Since there aren’t many breakthroughs when it comes to these stories it’s hard to judge which have had a larger impact positively, especially with a short amount of time to reflect on some of the stories. There are a few stories that just missed the countdown for one reason or another, some may wonder why so I will include a couple at the end of the countdown. (Visit Paranormal News Insider, Grand Dark Conspiracy,  and Shark Radio Network.)

Paranormal News Insider

10. On August 15, it was reported that a mysterious animal wMinnesota Cryptidas sighted dead on the side of the road in Minnesota and photographed by a passerby. The animal was a pale white and was nearly hairless with just of a tuft of hair on the middle of its back. The claws were long and it had a broken neck, more than likely caused earlier by a collision with a car since the animal was photographed on pavement.  The photo made its rounds on Facebook and other social media which prompted an inquiry as to its identity. Just like the Montauk Monster of August of 2008 the online speculation turned viral and guesses as to its identity ran from plausible to ridiculous. At first scientists were unsure of the animal’s identity, which sparked even more controversy and even more silly claims as to what it could be. A few days later the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources examined the photo of the animal and determined it to be a badger based on various characteristics. Why it’s on the list; the photo was one of the most popularly viral cryptid photos since the Montauk Monster. Why it’s only number 10: it was a badger.

9. On Saturday, March 5th, it was announced that a NASA scientist had found proof of extraterrestrial life. I had read this and was going to include it in my Paranormal News Insider segment, but something told me that this information was just not right. On Monday NASA officially refuted the story and stated that the scientist in question did not follow proper peer review protocol to verify his claims. The original claim was made back in 2007, but never went through any peer review process for others to prove or disprove his work. No conspiracy here, but despite the claim and the evidence it has yet to stand up to scientific scrutiny. Why it’s on the list; this was big news and a headline that made my jaw drop. Why it’s only number 9? It was easy to see from the beginning that the facts didn’t add up, but it had the potential to be the number one story.

8. This story began to evNeutrinoolve on September 26; the long standing thought that the speed of light is the fastest speed anything can travel has just been challenged by scientists at CERN. The scientists at the world’s largest physics lab noted that neutrinos that were sent from Geneva, Switzerland to Italy arrived a little earlier than planned. The neutrinos arrived 60 billionths of a second early from their 454 mile underground trip making scientists wonder if they missed some data along the way. The find has been asked to be scrutinized by other scientists, but if the find holds up science might change as we know it and the theory of special relativity could be squashed and then so much for the famous E= MC2 formula brought forth by Albert Einstein. New theories will then have to emerge from somewhere and science will begin to change. The test was redone in November with the same results although the implications of this data will not be fully understood until 2012. Why it’s on the list; physics is theoretical therefore its metaphysics. These findings may lead to changes in physics as we know it, but may have some longstanding implications for the paranormal down the road. Why it’s only number 8? While a second test was performed with the same results, there is still some question into the legitimacy of the information.

7. March 28-  15 witnesses in Russia in the Mount Shoria area of Siberia of a Yeti-like creature has lead to the creation of a University Research Institute to get to the bottom of the numerous sightings. One CaveRussian scientist, Igor Burtsev, feels that the Yeti might be Neanderthal men who have somehow survived the genetic removal of this species of man around 30,000 years ago. On October 10th, we discussed the U.S. and Russian scientists holding a convention and subsequent investigation in the Siberian region of Kemerovo to hunt for the elusive Siberian Snowman. The investigation was meant to just be a quick jaunt into the forest, but it turns out that during this trip they have confirmed the existence of the legendary creature providing proof that a tall unknown bipedal hominid actually exists!! Well, OK, not exactly. The claims are big and bold, but the evidence gathered is nearly the same as always. One white hair and some tracks, this is hardly proof much less evidence. This was a shocking turn of events in what was thought to be a mature and educated approach to investigation had turned out to be another circus sideshow. It was then announced that scientists claim they have irrefutable proof of Bigfoot following a quick investigation following a conference on the subject.  Dr. Jeff Meldrum, who was present at the excursion, spoke out during his speaking engagement at the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Conference in the fall of 2011. Meldrum basically stated the event seemed staged and too convenient and felt the event was being used as a means to fuel the tourism industry in the area. Why it’s on the list; this was a big claim, a claim many felt to be way too big, but with the number of scientists on board the project it got some attention. Why it’s number 7? The story did little to help the legitimacy of Bigfoot or his cousins and other than the popularity of the story it is nothing short of the dozen or more fake Bigfoot videos that were in the news this year.

6. UFOs at Football Games: Saturday, September 3rd, in South Bend, Indiana the Fighting Irish were fighting Mother Nature during a football game that was paused twice during severe lightning. It was during one of these delays lightning struck one of the buildings of the stadium. As camera crews panned the skies an apparent UFO was filmed. The UFO was described as a flying rod. Rods, as many may know, were explained away many years ago as camera artifacts caused by the motion of bugs or birds. After watching the video myself I would definitely say these were birds that were flying and definitely not something unexplainable. UFO or flareLate October; in the latest UFO caught over a sports stadium filmed by a guy in the stands; A high school game in Arizona included some interesting lights near the stadium. While the immediate conclusion was UFOs or top secret airplanes, a more logical solution was found just a couple days later. One suggestion had been that it looked to be like flares attached to parachutists, but that explanation was called absurd by many who commented on the video as well as those in the media that covered the subjeStop motionct. Sadly, a local Fox television station affiliate came forward with information that a group of skydivers did in fact dive around the same time the footage was filmed in the same direction and did, in fact, have flares strapped to them. Even though this explanation was given gracefully by former guest of the Grand Dark Conspiracy, Benjamin Radford, it is still being argued upon as a standard explanation or a cover-up to what really happened. A video from a New Orleans Saints game on October 23, that showed a supposed UFOs in the sky when coming back from commercial created some big conversation and some controversy. It was a few days later that the story was confirmed by the videographer that it was in fact time lapse photography. Despite many people claiming this was impossible and the flying rods were UFOs the reality is a lot less exciting than many had hoped. NBC camera man R.D. Willis shot the scene of the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans for an hour and ten minutes to come up with the 30 second spot. Watching a better version, better than someone videotaping a television screen, one can actually see the minute hand on the clock jumping quickly as well as people and cars zipping by in the background just as I had mentioned after this story broke. Why it’s on the list; these stories began to tie themselves together and helped support each other. Why number 6? They were not even hoaxes, just misidentified flying objects. A lot of people argued they were UFOs since they weren’t identified even though there wasn't much time to investigate and many paranormal "journalists" jumped to the alien conclusion without critical thought. UFO tends to mean “alien” to the general public, and since not enough time was given to evaluate what the objects could be (other than unidentified to those who want to believe) they were more or less YTBIFOs – Yet to be identified Flying Objects (I just made that up!).Cartoon

5. The world of astrology was in the news on January 10th, 2011. Many people were lead to believe their horoscope was changing. There are two zodiac systems in use and the one that we use in the western world, the tropical zodiac, goes off of the seasons, not the constellations, just as it has for almost two thousand years. The sidereal zodiac is the system that uses the constellations, and the panic over them not being aligned is not a new story either. But, people did panic and this story was still hard for many people to grasp after it was explained over and over. Why it’s on the list? The story was not only popular it caused a bit of a panic (and for many people to visit tattoo shops). Many people were really confused over this story even though it was recycled news. Why number 5? It was recycled news and had no significance despite the claims of the story.

4. Two sepaTracking the Chupacabrarate stories about the Chupacabra will make up number four on the list this year. On June 1st, workers at the Prince George’s Hospital Center in Maryland were forced to smoke outside due to a complete smoking ban within the building. It was during these smoke breaks that workers noticed a hairless creature running about in the woods. Workers then briefly trapped the animal and took numerous photos in an attempt to identify it. The creature has a long snout, pointy ears, long tail, and is completely hairless. One worker identified the animal as a kangaroo, dog, rat mix with a deer head (I hope it was just a janitor).  The animal was then nicknamed Prince Chupa after the chupacabra and quickly became a worlwide sensation. Turns out it was just a fox with severe mange. On March 28th, from ABC news, Discovery, live science, and other news outlets- the word spread quickly that the legendary beast known as El Chupacabra is no longer a mysterious creature, but a case of misidentification. Benjamin Radford was the guest on the Grand Dark Conspiracy just days after the news went viral. It has long since been known that the U.S. version of the chupacabra is typically coyotes with severe mange, but the incidents in Puerto Rico where the legend began started off in a not so legendary way. Why it’s on the list; Prince Chupa was very popular and the reality behind the Chupacabra sightings in Puerto Rico is a big deal to the overall history of this popular cryptid. Why it’s only number 4; simply put, three other stories trumped these two in popularity in the news.

3. On February 14th, I reported on Michael Greene, a man who claims to have lured Bigfoot out of hiding once in thFinding Bigfoote past (and made my top ten list with that story in 2010), will be followed around by a film crew of the Animal Planet channel as he hopes to lure Bigfoot out of hiding again. Mr. Greene is a member of the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, and he will be one of the first guests to be filmed for the new show "Finding Bigfoot".  “Finding Bigfoot” made its debut on Sunday, June 5th at 10 P.M. eastern. The show, led by the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization (BFRO), and their leader Matt Moneymaker, looks at various locations in search of evidence of Bigfoot. My quote for what I thought this story would turn into: “I’m guessing the show will be the Cryptozological version of Ghost Hunters.” Why it’s on the list; Bigfoot is still a big deal despite the growing number of hoaxes and fabricated video, photos, physical evidence, and claims of dead bodies, DNA, and other boasts. The show has been surprisingly popular despite being a weekly train wreck of misinformation and a showcase for some of the biggest frauds in the field (or at least produced that way). Why it’s only number 3? Despite the claims they are no closer to finding Bigfoot than you are lead to believe.

2. “Aflockalypse!” On December 31st, 2010, it began with 3,000 blackbirds found dead on roofs and roads in the small town of Beebe, Arkansas; this was thought to be caused by fireworks confusing them. Google Earth Mass Animal DeathsThere were many other deaths documented during the “Aflockalypse”: 450 birds which were found dead on a highway in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, likely caused by power lines. Red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, grackles and starlings found in Kentucky. Thousands of 'devil crabs' washed up in England. Thousands of drum fish washed along a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River, tens of thousands of small fish in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, thousands of dead fish found floating in a Port Orange, Florida creek. Hundreds of snapper fish found dead in New Zealand. Scores Aflockalypseof American Coots found dead on a Texas highway bridge. 50 to 100 Jackdaws, a cousin of the crow, found dead in Sweden. 80 pigeons died near a farmer’s home in Quebec, Canada since December 18th, 2010. 8,000 doves fell from the sky in Italy (with blue spots on their beaks) on December 7th 2010, which was caused by asphyxia, and millions of sardines were found dead in a Redondo Beach California marina finished off the events in March of 2011. Scientists were finally able to get the message out that mass animal die offs are quite common and happen frequently in the winter months, they just aren’t made as public as what the media had this year. Why it’s on the list; in one word; PANIC! This story began to take shape in early January and did nothing but gain momentum as story after story poured in adding to the panic that maybe the World was coming to an end. Why it’s number 2; being one of the most popular and longest lasting stories in the paranormal media this year it was really a natural occurrence and nothing truly paranormal.

1. UFOs over JerusaleJerusalem UFOm! On January 29th, an anonymous YouTube video was shown of a UFO hovering over Jerusalem which slowly descended over the Dome of the Rock Holy site, the UFO then suddenly let out a bright flash and zoomed up into the sky at an amazing speed, the video then panned skyward to show a seJerusalem UFO Videosries of red flashing lights. This was quickly named the best UFO video evidence ever captured by many paranormal bloggers as there were 4 separate videos that were leaked within a week. The odd thing was; there were no physical witnesses, the owner of the video was unknown, and the media frenzy only happened here in the United States as Jerusalem seemed unaware of the videos until later on. Analyzing each video separately there began to be big questions about their validity, and comparing each one to the newest one there became inconsistencies. MUFON is the worlds largest UFO investigation unit and it announced in early summer that its photo and video analysts had come the conclusion that the events surrounding the Jerusalem UFO events were more than likely hoaxes. Why it’s number 1; this was the most popular paranormal story of the year overall in the media (followed closely with Benjamin Radford killing the Chupacabra) and created some distance between believers and skeptics even within the UFO investigator and researcher ranks. Even though it ended up being declared a hoax this set of videos raised the bar for hoaxes and begs the question of how much can we really believe all of these UFO, Bigfoot, and ghost videos anymore.


The “just missed it” list; here are a few stories that could have cracked the top ten but just came up short.

While disclosure was the number one story in 2010, it failed to crack the top ten this year. Back on October 3, I reported on the disclosure petition that had been started on the official White House page for the government to formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race, or, in other words: disclosure. The petition was started by the Paradigm Research Group, a political activist group that is trying to get the government to open up to what they know about alien and human interaction. In early November, The White House responded to the pair of petitions into the knowledge of extraterrestrials as well as information of communication being withheld from the public. "The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race," Phil Larson from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy reported on the website. “In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public’s eye." Do you think this will be a sufficient answer to those who feel there is a cover up at hand?

Why it missed: While disclosure is a big story and will continue to be so I just didn’t feel this story got as much coverage as the #1 story from last year’s top ten and there was no real breakthrough event associated with this petition.

On October 3rd and 4th over 60 witnesses saw multiple UFOs over the skies near the Kansas City area in Missouri. Many witnesses reported seeing a large object that broke apart in the skies. Many described it as a large triangular or boomerang shape and some described it as being as big as a football field. Other witnesses described the object as possibly being a very large airplane, such as a C130 transport plane. Most of these sightings were explained as a group of airplanes that were flying in tight formation in the area; even a veteran pilot saw the event and was slow to realize what he saw until he saw the planes move apart. Many of the other sightings were turned in after the initial ones and could be attributed to the mass panic of the initial sightings. The 85 reported sightings for the month put Missouri at number one in the United States in the amount of UFO sightings in one state as reported by MUFON.

Why it missed: Despite being an ongoing story throughout October, and even a few more reports popping up in November, I feel this is more a case of mass panic versus a bunch of individual sightings of UFOs. Since the major UFO sightings were explained away all we were left with were random sightings that didn’t seem to match up with the initial events as well as no real valuable evidence to support anything other than a logical conclusion.

On March 19th the moon was very close to Earth. The event, known as a lunar perigee, marked the Moon’s closest distance to Earth since 1992. Conspiracy theorists feared this close moon would wreak havoc on the Earth’s climate and create tsunamis and earthquakes that could devastate the Earth. The fact is the moon was only a couple of miles closer than normal; the 221,567 mile distance was still too far for the moon to have any effect on the Earth out of the ordinary. The massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami that swept Japan is in no way related to this event as the moon was still at a normal distance from the Earth. This event created a lot of unnecessary panic weeks and days before it happened; of course once it was over it was back to normal.

Why it missed: This was a big story that seemed to panic a lot of people. Problem is; it wasn’t a paranormal story and it was quickly ignored the day the perigee occurred.

Last Blog

November 12, 2011

Have we captured ghosts on film?

On September 19, 1936, two photographers were finishing up a series of photos for a magazine when one of them suddenly saw a transparent figure coming down a set of stairs in front of them. Captain Provand, upon the request from his partner Mr. Indre Shira, hurriedly prepared the camera and took a photograph that would become the most recognizable ghost photograph in history and would legitimize the possibility of ghosts through this one still shot – or would it? Brown LadyWhile this famous photograph taken at Raynham Hall of the ghost of the “Brown Lady” is thought to be the best “real deal” photograph ever, there is a little history missing from its backstory that reveals the photo to be a little less glamorous than what we know it. The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) conducted an investigation of the events of that evening in January of 1937. Their findings pointed mostly to a faulty, and out of date, camera as the likely cause to the photograph. The fact that horizontal lines are doubled in the photo suggests a double exposure and the camera itself was found to let light into the lens unexpectedly (the photo previous to the famous shot was in fact overexposed). The facts of this story were ignored and in the 1960s when the photograph was made into a cultural icon. So, if this photograph is the product of a faulty camera, what about other photos taken of purported ghosts?

During the Spiritualism Era there were hundreds of supposed photographs of ghosts and spirits. The act of catching a ghost or spirit on fiMary Todd Lincolnlm was simply referred to as Spirit Photography, and was made famous by William Mumler who first photographed a spirit in the early 1860s. His most famous photograph was that of Mary Todd Lincoln, who was seen with the ghost of her late husband, Abraham Lincoln. Mumler was later found to be a fraud as many of the “ghosts” in his photos were living people posing as others. It had been discovered that he had even broken into people’s homes to steal photographs of loved ones to help with the deception. The great showman P.T. Barnum even hired a photographer to fabricate a photo of himself with the ghost of Abraham Lincoln as evidence against Mumler in a court case that would ruin Mumler’s career. We can easily spot these as fakes and fraud nowadays, but many of these were well believed to be real proof of ghosts back when they were taken.

Wem ghostIn 1995, an amateur photographer took a picture of a burning town hall building in Wem, Shropshire, England. He later discovered the image of a girl standing in a doorway of the flaming building.  The debate over the legitimacy of the photograph was as hot as the flames, but many felt this was truly proof of ghosts on film. That was until 2010, when a man revealed that the image was more than likely taken from a postcard from the area that was from 1922. So, maybe I’m singling out photographs that have received logical explanations over time, what about current “ghost” photographs?

Many people feel that images of orbs in their photographs (orb is an old term used in photography and was not “coined” by anyone in the ghost field) are proof of ghosts. Despite many groups and professionals discounting a majority of orb photographs as dust and debris for well over a decade it is still widely believed to be a form of ghost photography. OrbMany people, however, have moved on but there are still other things appearing in photographs that many feel are ghosts that have logical explanations. A few logical explanations of ghost photographs include; light streaks, blur caused by underexposure, lens flare, humidity/moisture/breath, and even pareidolia. Humidity, moisture, or even breath photographed is reminiscent of ectoplasm, which is thought to be a substance created when a ghost is attempting to form, yet is actually something born from the Spiritualism Era that was part of the fraud that helped perpetuate it through tangible evidence. PareidoliaA photo taken in low light can create light streaks or other blurs from brighter areas of the photo which gives the impression of movement. Pareidolia is the ability to create significant information from random sources. A face in the clouds, random light and shadow creating a face, and even audible stimuli such as many EVPs are examples of pareidolia. These random pieces of light and shadow or noises we mentally construct as words can easily fool anyone into thinking they have found legitimate proof of ghosts.

Even without these camera effects there still exists technology; our largest asset is also the greatest enemy. Photography programsLight streak such as Photoshop have given anyone the ability to manipulate a photograph in their favor. Even cell phones have simple software that can manipulate photographs. Smart phones have access to cell phone applications that can add “ghosts” into photographs randomly. From photographs to video it is ever increasingly easier to manipulate images to suit whatever we want, is this enough to cast photo and video to the side as far as potential evidence of anything? Despite the doubt created by potential manipulation as well as through false positive images, there is still the thought that someone somewhere will capture a ghost in a photograph or through video. Is this even possible?

Let’s examine ghosts for a second; are they even real? Science says no, so discussing the photographing of them would be putting the cart before the horse, but for the sake of argument we will assume that science is on our side. Parapsychologists state that apparitions are what is seen, heard, felt, or smelled and are related to some part of the human personality or mind that can somehow exist in our physical universe. Notice there’s nothing about a ghost being a physical form or having mass. Ghosts are seen because of ESP (Extra Sensory PerceptionPhotoshop, us perceiving them) or PK (Psychokinesis, the ghost is projecting itself), not because they are physically standing before us. We could assume that ghosts could create their images on film with psychokinesis, they could “imprint” themselves on film or in digital media, right? One could make that assumption, but we would also have to take into consideration that a living person present could be the one imprinting something on film. After all, while there are living people present we cannot confirm that ghosts are there and while there is direct observable evidence that living people can effect film there is little (read: none) evidence that ghosts can.

Even if ghosts could be photographed the photos would be evidence, not proof of their existence. In order to have verifiable proof of ghosts on film we will have to first prove scientifically that ghosts exist. Then, when a purported ghost is captured on film or video, there would have to be corroborating evidence to support what was seen or measured. For some folks, that’s just too much work.

Full Spectrum

See my earlier post on the advancement of technology

Watch an interesting video on this topicghost