Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Caspers: Worst Ghost Photos of 2014

Its the end of awards season, so when better to launch an award for the lamest ghost photos of 2014? Well DURING awards season would be the obvious answer, but I only just thought of this and I didn't want to wait until next year.

As you will see I've designed a trophy that is every bit as resplendent as the creators and propagators of the winning entry deserve. No expense and minutes on mircosoft paint have been spent... I mean spared. I'm sure the winners will proudly display their virtual trophy on their websites and social media profiles for years to come.
The only criteria for entry is I had to come across it during 2014. Many of the photos were produced pre-2014, that doesn't matter.

Social Media Simpletons: Did they REALLY think they would get away with these?

1. The exposed tit.

Guess what? It was from an app. 

2. A load of old RAPs. Courtesy of Radford Area Paranormal Society or RAPS.  

This one came with this message: "Greetings to all
Here are two photo's taken back to back in a house that is experiencing "scratching" on all the doors and the walls from what we have learned. This family did some "FALSE" practices (ways of the world) to try and rid their home of the activity taking place. As a result from what their improper actions done they have amplified this activity and now the entity is manifesting to the family.
As of tonight we have verified that these are authentic pictures taken over this past weekend, as we received these yesterday and verified truthful from a family member and stated not faked at all.
These were sent to one of our Investigators to look at and discuss. The pictures were taken split seconds apart from a smart phone as best as could be captured from the hard scratching on the door that was taking place.
We wanted to share with all of you and we hope to discuss the Demonic activity with the family to set them free from the nightmare they are now in.
Pray for this family."

False practices you say! Err... would that be the false practice of using a Ghost app to insert a scary little girl into your picture? As exposed by TK Anderson on the excellent "There's a (Ghost) App for that" Facebook page. 

The Media "who is checking this stuff?" award. 

1. Scratch that Mitch: Mitch Conner and the Graveyard Ghost (almost every paper)
As exposed on this very page.
The most shocking thing about this one was it ran in almost every major tabloid in the UK, and it took me, with the help of April Abercrombie, less than ten minutes to expose Mitch's fakery:


2. You're not Shona believe these ones! The Daily Mirror
This poor family were followed around the York Prison Museum by a menacing little girl ghost, who had the nerve to appear as the same image in EVERY photo!

Kids these days! 
Here she is sat next to their computer, as they fake photos of her to sell to the Mirror!  
She didn't get a cut, no wonder she looks pissed off!
Seriously though the image appears on several ghost apps this one came from Ghost Prank. 

The "Every Breath you Take (a photograph of)" award for best moisture. 

1. Its Breath. 

2. Its Breath.

3. Its B... Spaghetti Bolognese? 

And Finally...The "what the hell is that supposed to be" Life Time Achievement award goes to...

The Rev, Neal Farley for these entries. 

1. Errr... Cookie Monster? 

2. Errrr... Woody (without his hat)?


Honourable Mentions

Slow shutter speed.

Every orb Photo... Ever

This awesome camera strap from 1999!

So that's it. I could have literally chose a hundred more. Chose your nominees if you like. I'm not really bothered who wins. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

Where Superstition Runs Unchecked, Pain Suffering and Death Will Follow.

Tools of the trade of a Tanzanian witch doctor. The Machete a reminder of the potential brutality of such superstition. 
You would struggle to find an image more synomous with the mock horror fun of Halloween than the pointed hatted, wart ridden, wicked witch. Of course it hasn't always been fun and games. An accusation of witch-craft in the middle ages was almost certainly a death sentence.

Between the 1400s and 1700s its estimated that up to 100,000 individuals were put to death as a result of such charges.

Things couldn't be much different nowadays in the Western world. Wicca is one of the World's fastest growing religions. Its fictional practitioners are pop culture heroes and heroines, celebrated in shows show as Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Unfortunately in some areas of the World witchcraft and its practice can still be deadly.

 On the 23rd Febuary the Telegraph reported on the discovery of the mutilated remains of a one year old child in Tanzania.  One can only wonder what would drive anyone to kill a child in such a way? Why was Yohana Bahati's life cut so tragically short?

The answer is, Yohana was an albino, and in Tanzania, that means constant discrimination and mortal danger. Due to the widespread propagation of witchcraft, albinos are looked upon not as human beings but as commodities to be exploited. An albino body part, it is believed can bring wealth and good fortune.

A Red Cross report on the subject states:
"Senior police officers in Dar es Salaam said a complete set of albino body parts – including all four limbs, genitals, ears, tongue and nose – was fetching the equivalent of 75,000 US dollars."
In an extremely poor country this offers the incentive to disregard the stiff penalties for such action and engage in the hunting of other human beings.

The United Nations states that since 2000 at least 75 albinos have been murdered as a result of these beliefs and practices, a further 58 brutally mutilated. Thousands of albinos and their families have been forced to flee as a result of this persecution. Schools and compounds founded by the Red Cross are subject to 24 hour armed guard, but they can't take in everyone.

 And, unfortunately, things only stand to get worse this year.

The Tanzanian elections are due to be held in October and the UN fear that many of the countries politicians will turn to witchcraft and witch doctors to improve their prospects. The Red Cross are currently pushing for current and future governments of Tanzania to increase legal protection for albinos, as well as conducting public anti-discrimination programs. Unfortunately as Vicky Ntetema, executive director of Under the Same Sun, a Canadian non-profit working to defend albinos, points out the response so far has been luke-warm at best:
There’s absolutely no political will among leaders to end these macabre killings.”
She goes on to point out that often it is albino's own families that are key in their murder and dismemberment. In the case mentioned above, the child's father is currently being questioned, though no charges have yet been brought.

A UN representative said:
"These attacks are accompanied by a high degree of impunity, and while Tanzania has made efforts to combat the problem, much more must be done to put an end to these heinous crimes and to protect this vulnerable segment of the population," 

Those suspected of witch-craft are also the subject of brutality and murder, in October 2014, 23 people were arrested in  Murufiti, a village in the western Kigoma region for burning 7 people alive. Such incidents are not rare. The legal and human rights centre in Tanzania estimates that over 600 elderly women were killed in such incidents in 2011 alone.

In 2010 the Pew Forum on Religious and Public life carried out a survey in several African nations, finding that belief in witch-craft in Tanzania was at a much greater incidence than bordering nations. Of the Tanzanians interviewed, over 60% held a belief in witch-craft and spirits, regardless of their underlying religion.

Anthropology professor at Dar Es Salaam University, Joachim Mwami suggests that such beliefs are rife in Tanzania because it was "Less colonised by European powers" than other African nations, resulting in the recourse to witch-craft to explain anything inexplicable.

So what is the answer here?

No one can argue that the Red Cross suggested method of reducing the discrimination toward albinos is crucial, but it seems like there is a different issue that is being avoided here. The reason that albinos are seen as less than human, is the continuing propagation of superstition. It seems obvious that over-turning these beliefs, showing how fallacious they are, is the key to reducing these killings, and over time, ending them all together.

As long as these superstitions hold albinos will always be seen as a commodity. They will continue to die brutally until this belief system is legitimately challenged through, better education regarding both science and critical thinking.

So why isn't this superstitious nonsense attacked head-on, first and foremost? Could it be doing so directly involves attacking the foundational beliefs of an entire nation? Surely when lives are at stake this sensitivity should thrown out of the window.

Tanzania definitely need more men like Suleiman Musa. Whilst living in fear, as he himself is an albino, he sets out to both debunk the claims of witchcraft practitioners and educate his fellow Tanzanians about the legitimate genetic causes of albinism. He maybe one of the bravest "skeptical activists" that you've never heard of, operating in a place where critical thinking is essential to save lives.

His plight reminds me of Narendra Dabholkar, an Indian skeptic, rationalist and author who travelled India exposing the fraud of the shaman, tantrics and holy men claiming to heal the sick.... at a price of course. One of his main aim was to have an anti-superstition law enacted in the state of Maharashtra.

Narendra was murdered in August 2013, shot in the back by two unidentified gunmen who escaped by motorcycle. Police suspect that the murder was planned in advance, and a direct result of Dabholkar's activism. He began receiving death threats as early as 1983.

The Anti-supersition and Black magic act was passed days after his death. It outlaws practices related to black magic, human sacrifices, use of magic remedies to cure ailments and other such acts which exploit people's superstitions.

Next time someone suggests that advocating critical thinking, science and skepticism doesn't save lives, remember that Suleiman, Narenda and others believe this is wrong so strongly, they stake their lives on it.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Ghost Hunter, The Psychic and the Sting in the Tail.

On the last post I wrote about Amy Bruni and her outburst against skeptics, and in particular skeptical activism. People who know more about Amy than I, have expressed some surprise at her comments. Especially as, being an investigator, she should know the value of a skeptical approach.

Many are wondering, as did I, what was the cause of this outburst, why now? I'm pretty sure I have the answer. I actually hit on it in the post I wrote.

Before going on to that its worth mentioning that Amy has issued something of a retraction, which I repost here in the interest of fairness:

"Let me just elaborate on a few things regarding my "skeptics" post because I feel my responses are getting lost in the comments.First of all - I welcome skepticism. I love and think we need skeptics to bring up logical arguments to what we experience. I love when scientists assist us - because for me anyway, the goal is answers. I won't believe you if you present me with a blanket statement like, "Ghosts don't exist" - because I've seen them and I've experienced them. I will be more apt to listen if you give me an explanation as to what they could be, or try to help me find out. My belief is that most paranormal phenomena can and will be explained by science one day. I welcome help with that, because I will be the first to admit, I'm no scientist. Also, please stop falling on the argument that I employed scientific methods while on television. I'm not kidding myself - of course I didn't.Also, believing in psychics and ghosts does not mean I think every single experience or self proclaimed psychic is legitimate. So yes, I do think people who are interested in these things need to be realistic and even, harsh on them. Be hard on your evidence, don't believe everything every psychic tells you. Be careful who you give your money to, go with your gut.
What I'm saying is, I stand very much in the middle. I am very passionate about this "field" - but I am also very realistic about it. It means I shoot down 99% of the evidence I collect or see. It means I am more apt to take everything a psychic tells me with a grain of salt. Note it? Yes. Make life decisions based on it? No.
Critical thinking IS severely lacking in this field and it makes us easy targets. Which brings me back to my original post. Again, I have nothing against skeptics in general - but I do have everything against the methods some are employing and the fact they are attacking people who I love and trust intensely. Furthermore, I am a free thinker and everyone should have that right. It is not anyone else's job to make those decisions for you. Their argument is they're saving you from yourself. I say - stop worrying about people who don't need your advice or sympathy. Live and let live. And trust that people are grown up enough to make their own decisions.
Ok, I have a LOT of work to do today and this snow won't quit! smile emoticon So, until next time. Love and respect for everyone!
Fair enough..... But Amy is standing by her initial comments regarding skeptical activism:

 " I have nothing against skeptics in general - but I do have everything against the methods some are employing and the fact they are attacking people who I love and trust intensely." 

So what Amy is saying is:

"Be hard on your evidence, don't believe everything every psychic tells you. Be careful who you give your money to, go with your gut..... UNLESS ITS MY MATE! YOU SHOULD TRUST HIM IMPLICITLY!"

So who is this friend she is referring to? And what have us nasty skeptics done to him that's upset Amy so much?

A quick search through the comments thread on the original post yields an answer:

Its none other than "psychic" Chip Coffey!

Amy, with friends like chip, you really don't need enemies. The man is utterly reprehensible!
Even if I accept for a moment that Chippy Tea is in possession of "psychic abilities", he isn't, he should receive nothing but condemnation for his involvement with the TV show "Psychic Kids". This was a show, so bottom of the barrel, it took children and "trained" them to use their "abilities". This clearly involved the enforcement of delusion, and involved adults, in some cases, insisting that the kids should try to "see" ghost and spirits. In one particular episode, the only one I could stomach, Coffey took a clearly traumatised 14 year old child back to her old family home, where clearly something terrible had happened, and encouraged them to confront a "dark force" (The Demon House- 30th June 2008).


Chip, you are scum. The makers of this show are scum. And I don't give a damn who thinks that is unfair. Your mere involvement with that show means that you were involved with the exploitation of children. And vulnerable children at that!

 Bottom line: that's the worst of the worst.

So basically its Operation Bumble Bee that Amy is so worked up about.

Devised by Skeptic Susan Gerbic, Operation Bumble was designed to expose Chip as using "Hot Reading" methods in his shows. Before I carry on, its worth noting, the skeptical community in general is very divided on projects such as Gerbic's. Some see them as counter productive and damaging to "skepticism" in general. Personally I have always believed that skeptics should be more concerned with outreach and education than operations such as this.

There is no doubt that this Operation put money in Chip's pockets, which I'm sure everyone involved would have preferred to avoid. Unfortunately it was a necessary evil.

When it comes to "characters" such as Coffey, I genuinely believe the measures taken to expose him were warranted. The man profits from the grief of others. Let's not worry too much about "fairness" towards him.

I'll let Gerbic describe, in her own words how the operation proceeded. You can read a comprehensive version of this here.

Unfortunately the operation wasn't as conclusive as one would have hoped. As Gerbic says:
"As you will read from the blogs that recounted what happened at the Los Angeles and San Jose events, Chip Coffey did not use these Facebook profiles at all to get a hot read. He did clearly communicate with our nonexistent family members, but he learned about those because we had been loudly chatting to everyone around us about who we were there for. When he stated from stage that he was "getting an older woman and a child," we sprang on that statement as coming from our people. Then we just rode it through agreeing to everything he said.
In our opinion, everything he said that entire night could have been a cold read. Everything was general, and the audience gave lots of feedback and information. At least a third of the room had paid $160 to get a seat near the front. People who have invested this much money and time reading his books, attending his live shows, and memorizing his TV performances are likely to overlook any mistakes he might make and not be interested in an alternative explanation for his accuracy.The only thing that could be considered a hot read was the statement he made to me: When I said privately to his manager during a break that I was worried that my son Matthew would be too young to contact, I was assured that Chip had reached children who were stillborn. Then when Chip spoke to me thirty minutes later he said, "You said you are worried that I won't be able to reach your son." The only person I had said that to was his manager.After all this work, months of preparing, and over $900 given to the Chip Coffey experiment, all we could be reasonably sure of is that he did not know we were skeptics and he did not know we were lying, and he claimed to have seen the two nonexistent people we pretended to have: a sister for Jan and my son Matthew. He "spoke" to Wade's dead mother who was really alive and is nothing like the personality that he described. He even smiled through the photo session we had paid extra for. In my opinion, there was nothing more we could have done to make it as easy as possible for the Coffey team to find our bait and repeat it back as messages from the other side.I know the argument could be made that even psychics have a bad day and "it doesn't work like that," but if he was able to clearly see all that he had seen that night, hundreds of statements down to one woman from the spirit world showing him a bottle of Vicks Vapor Rub, then you would think that one of these spirits would have told him to avoid us. Yet he didn't."
Clearly this, while not a stellar success, was enough to rattle Amy's cage. Chip himself has posted about it on his Facebook page. The posts have all the cocky arrogance of a man who has had a very lucky escape.

One might also question: If Operation Bumble Bee was such a failure, why did it prompt Amy to rail against it?

 He implies that he is somehow going to get back at the skeptics who coordinated this.

I've got a suggestion.

Submit yourself to testing Chip! Surely that would be the best way to hit out at all skeptics everywhere. Prove that you actually have the abilities you claim under rigorously controlled conditions.

Because if you would submit to this, there would be no need for "stings" or anything else.

So let's do this!

Here's a psychic prediction of my own:

You won't will you? 

As I stated on the last post, believers should be behind this kind of action. They should be even more motivated to expose the frauds than skeptics. As such they could rally behind Chip taking a formal test...

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Dear Amy.... Addressing common misconceptions about skeptics.

This blog is a response to a message posted by Amy Bruni on facebook today 16/02/15. The reason I'm writing back to Amy is I think that she has some common misconceptions about skeptics and, in particular, the operations and causes they take up.
For those of you who don't know, Amy is one of the investigators on "Ghost Hunters", one of the more popular examples of the current glut of paranormal TV shows. As such, she's never really registered that much with me. I don't mean this as a slight. I don't bother with paranormal investigation shows, they are nothing but fluff really. The methods they use are laughable and the results obtained, frankly, questionable to say the least.

Here's Amy's post:

Dear Amy,

I am writing to you in response to a widely shared Facebook post you made on 16/02/15. as it seems to repeat some of the many misconceptions and misunderstandings "believers" tend to have about "skeptics". Chiefly the confusion between a "skeptic" and a "cynic". A cynic seeks to dismiss claims out of hand regardless of evidence. This is a position that is almost as illogical as accepting a claim without evidence. A skeptic is simply a person looking for evidence to verify a claim before they accept it. A cynic is close minded. A skeptic, usually, anything but.

Don't confuse the two.

I agree with your proposal of everyone's right to hold a belief, or a set of beliefs. But this is quite different than stating that these beliefs should remain unchallenged! Its also quite different to imply that all beliefs are equally valid. Put simply, beliefs that are ill-formed and based on little to no evidence, should be challenged.

Amy do you really think that its "weird" that skeptics seek out disscussions with believers? I don't. I think that many believers don't come to skeptical meetings because they don't want their beliefs challenged. They aren't secure enough in their beliefs to defend them. Most skeptics would love believers to come to skeptical conferences, most of us love talking about these topics. Most of us like to be challenged!

Why should believers and skeptics remain separate?

For many believers this is a matter of convenience and comfort, they simply don't want to consider opposition to their position. That isn't healthy and its certainly not productive.

That's the opposite of why skeptics such as myself engage with the conversation. I'm comfortable in my approach to the supernatural, so I'm willing to look at the opposing views. Many believers want this too, they are adopting a skeptical outlook as well.  Because scepticism isn't a whole hearted rejection of any and all beliefs. Its adopting the scientific method to analyse claims and beliefs. This isn't a negative thing, nor does it mean that believers immediately have to drop any or all belief. They just have to accept that the evidence isn't there yet. Whether they continue to look or not. That's down to them.

Why would anyone want to limit this growth, which comes through interaction?

Unless they stand to lose something, of course.

You talk about skepticism as a belief system. It isn't, and this is an extremely common misrepresentation. Skepticism is a common position that is held by most of the world's population Amy. For example, when you shop for a used car and you check under the hood, look for rust and check the wheel bearings, you are applying skepticism. You are not accepting the word of the seller verbatim. You are wanting to obverse and test things for yourself. Its sensible. It would be reckless to do otherwise, right?

Now if that seller, refused to allow you to examine that car, If they were filled if righteous indignation and demanded you leave their property, and further more implied that you were some how, less of a person for trying to impart some of what you had learned about the car to other potential buyers... you'd be mighty suspicious of their motivation wouldn't you?

So you can conclude there that skepticism is a process that you've gone through to examine a specific claim. Yet turning that process on claims of the supernatural is somehow distasteful to you it seems. Why should we question the claims of the used car sales man but leave the psychic unchecked?

You then move on to the subject of skeptical activism. I have a quite strong stance on this. Believers should not be opposing skeptical activism, they should be WHOLE HEARTEDLY SUPPORTING IT.

There is absolutely no doubt that there are frauds and charlatans at work in the paranormal field. Even the strongest believer would have to admit that there those in the field who are claiming such skills and abilities falsely for the purpose of extracting money from others. If you are a believer surely you would want these fraudsters exposed?

I've talked about this "sorting of the wheat from the chaff" in the paranormal field for some time, in my opinion its about time that believers started working with skeptics on projects such as Susan Gerbic's excellent two-part Operation Bumblebee and Ice cream Cone, which exposed techniques used by a particular psychic. Surely this is a good thing for believers?

Unless you have a sinking feeling that maybe all psychics are faking their abilities in one way or other, either knowingly or unknowingly. Maybe you feel that when one of the cards is removed the whole house of cards is at risk?

In that case it would prudent to discourage these kind of actions. Polarising believers to see "skeptics" as the enemy somehow. To create and us versus them type mentality. Would this help persuade believers not to scrutinise any claims at all?

As for us skeptics having something better to do: yep there's lots we could all be doing to help the poor and the needy. Your BLATANT appeal to emotion there is duly noted. I for one happen to think that it is DAMN important to encourage others to think critically. And that's all skeptics involved in this kind of action are doing.

We want people to think more critically. We aren't telling anyone what to think. We want to show people how to think more clearly.

And the brilliant thing is, we've all been there. Most skeptics were at some time, believers of some description. Hell, many of us still are.

There was a time when I believed all sorts of nonsense. No one could have discouraged me from having these beliefs, but when I started to read about critical thinking and the importance of evidence and testing and the burden of proof, etc... I started to untangle these things naturally, by myself.

But its not like encouraging critical thinking could save a life is it?

Actually... I'm pretty positive that it could.

Gloria Sam, a child who died of a severe, but treatable skin compliant, in Austarlia 2009 could have perhaps been saved if her parents had been exposed to critical thinking. If they had consulted standard health care instead of relying on homeopathy, I have little doubt she would be alive, and they would not be jailed.

What about the children of a Maryland Mother who murdered them in an "exorcism" attempt last year? Would they still be alive if their mother had been exposed to critical thinking techniques? Would they still be alive if there was less propagation of the idea of demons and possession as fact throughout the media?

One can only speculate. But I'd be willing to bet the the promotion of critical thinking would definitely lessen human suffering as a whole. If you need persuading of the URGENT need for the encouragement of critical thinking visit What's The Harm. There you will find a whole raft of cases were a little critical thinking could have lessened suffering, or saved a child's life.

What's this got to do with exposing of psychics, and the highlighting of faked evidence for ghosts, or something as simple as pointing out that "orbs" aren't the spirits of the dead, but very explainable phenomena?

The connection is that critical thinking has to start somewhere, often it starts small.

Sometimes it takes practice, sometimes it takes the simpler demonstrations to lead to something greater and more worthwhile.

Early on in your post, you use the word "accosting". Again I think this is an appeal to emotion. But I'd like to show you a real "accosting". This is a video of the abuse, skeptic Mark Tilbrook received whilst handing out leaflets outside a Sally Morgan show last year. The perpetrators were Morgan's husband and son. The abuse including numerous homophobic slurs and threats of violence.


 The next time you decide to use such a hyperbolic phrase as "accosting" perhaps you could consider the abuse Tilbrook received and question "Is a skeptic asking for evidence of a claim really on a par with that?"

Tilbrook's crime was simply one of trying to encourage critical thinking. His leaflet (reproduced below) did not attack Morgan or any other physic directly. It was simply designed to encourage critical thinking about psychic's and their methods. Why would this warrant such aggression?

Hopefully reading this may of better informed you on the skeptical approach, and hopefully persuaded you that critical thinking is a desperately needed commodity.

Robert Lea
- Skeptic's Boot.

PS. Wondering what was the cause of Amy's outburst. I've followed this up here. 

Friday, 6 February 2015

A Haunted British Pub You Say! Most unusual!

Actually not so much if you believe the tabloids.

When people from other countries think of Great Britian I wonder what first pops into mind? Fish "n" chips? Bad Teeth? Football hooliganism? All silly out-dated sterotypes of course... but what about the good old fashioned British pub, which wouldn't be complete without a resident spook.

The Daily Fail reports today on Birmingham pub the Old Crown and some not-so spooky goings on. I actually have to add: This is something of a first for the Mail, they've actually debunked this story for me. I don't have to do the slightest bit of "leg work" the answers are all here.


The story focuses on a bottle of cordial "mysteriously" falling and rolling across the pub floor, not too remarkable at all. I suppose the mysterious part is why the bottle fell, we shouldn't be to surprised at it rolling, it was in motion already, it would have been more unusual if it had come to a dead stop!

The Mail describes the motion like this:

"The video shows a bottle of blackcurrant cordial mysteriously moving across a surface and falling on the ground."
Actually no. The video shows the bottle falling and ROLLING. Round things tend to roll when disturbed. If you think that's mysterious you are going to be positively blown away by bowling.

All that we really need to figure out is what caused the bottle to fall.

Here's barmaid describing the events surrounding the bottle tipping:
'I went down to the cellar to get some more spirits and suddenly I heard a big bang from upstairs... I immediately rushed back to the bar to see Andy and Rudie leaning over staring at the bottle on the floor... They told me what happened and I was spooked. It's so weird.'

So Amy quite legitimately blames the two witnesses Andy and Rudie for tipping the bottle. The video doesn't SEEM to show them interfering with the bottle. I initially suspected some mischief was involved. With Andy and Rudie as likely suspects. Firstly the screen is cropped. I rejected this simply because if it were the the pair pulling the the bottle one would expect it to fall towards them. It doesn't. I suspect that the video is cropped simply because the sharers wanted us to see the bottle more clearly, not realising this would also cause the loss other other information, such as what else was going on in the surrounding environment.*(another reason I don't think this is a hoax)

Looking at a few photos persuaded me that there is a much more mundane explanation:

Look at the photo of the cordial bottles, note that they are lined up on a raised drinks mat. I'd say the edge is perhaps half centimetre off the bar surface. Note that in this arrangement the blackcurrant is on the right of the orange. In the video its clearly on the other side, also the bottle in question is shown to be round based, rather than square like the orange and lime bottles:

The Mail handily supplies some stills from the video with the edge of the mat hardly circled!:

So here's what I think happened.

The last person to use the blackcurrent cordial places it back on the raised mat with part of the base of the bottle hanging over the edge of the raised drinks mat. On her way down to the cellar Amy opens and shuts an interconnecting door. Vibration, probably increased by the fact that the bar hatch is raised, disturbs the balanced bottle. It falls.

The direction of its fall supports the idea that it falls off the left edge of the mat.

Of course there could be another explanation. But in my opinion there only one type of spirits behind this bar.

* So, some folks are speculating that the bottle may be pulled by a fine line or fishing line. Here's why I don't think that is the case: If this was pulled by a wire attached to the narrow neck of the bottle, necessary to make the bottle fall in the manner it does, the force acting on the bottle wouldn't be acting directly through the bottle's centre of mass. This would mean there would be rotational motion along the bottles central axis, as well as translational motion. The bottle would turn on its axis. Even if the line was approximately attached to the centre of mass, we would expect to see a wobble effect as this would unlikely be perfect.

This is opposed to the effects of gravity on the bottle which would purely through the centre of mass resulting in purely translational motion.

There is a slight turn in the bottle, which I believe is a result of tipping as the bottle falls.

Anyway that's my reasoning better explained. 

Monday, 2 February 2015

Highlighting of Ouija Board Use Perpetuates its Unwarranted Reputation.

Today's Northern Echo carries the story of a County Durham mother and daughter, Margaret Carroll and Katrina Livingstonewho are in critical condition in hospital after a fire broke out in their home. Police suspect that the pair committed arson, and they have been arrested on this charge and reckless endangerment. That wouldn't normally be the kind of story I cover on this blog, but most reports are focusing heavily on the fact that the pair may of been dabbling with the Ouija board the evening before the fire.

The basis for this seems to come from the word of neighbours of the family, who add Lvingstone had told them the board warned the pair that they would soon die.
"Donna Sowerby, who lives nearby in First Street, said Miss Livingstone (the daughter) told her she used a Ouija board on Friday night, which told her she and her mother were going to die."
The Metro goes as far as to directly implicate the Ouija board, running a large picture of the children's game at the top of its article on the fire:
"On Saturday, a fire started at Mrs Carroll and Miss Livingstone’s home in Consett, County Durham, and again a Ouija board is believed to have been involved..."

There is added relevance to this because Carroll's husband, Paul Carroll is currently awaiting sentencing for drowning his dog and dismembering it. And guess what this vile piece of shit blames the crime on evil spirits he conjured with... you guessed it... the Ouija board.

Prosecutor Blair Martin told the Court:
“When initially interviewed by police the defendant said the dog had died while he and his wife were using a Ouija board to contact dead spirits... He said a bad spirit had entered the dog and it died.

Carroll seems to have now dropped his alibi and has pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal. In fact he dropped the excuse in his second police interview. Its most certainly also relevant that Carroll suffers from severe learning disabilities and mental health issues. Did he believe that the Ouija was some how responsible for his crimes? I doubt it.

I also doubt that the timing of this fire and the mentioning of the Ouija's death threat by Carroll's step daughter to her neighbour and the sentencing of Carroll is pure coincidence. Did this pair some how intend to add credibility to Carroll's initial alibi with their actions? One can only speculate.

Of course the press still  still focuses on the fact that a Ouija board was at some point used by the parties involved in both cases.

What they fail to realise is by focusing on the board as a factor in these terrible events the media perpetuate its aura as a dangerous divination tool. The spreading of this ignorance leads to mythology around the Ouija board that obscures that fact that the movement of the plancette is described by factors such as the ideomotor effect, involuntary muscle movement that also lies behind other forms of divination such as dowsing and automatic writing,  that have been understood for decades!

There really is no mystery. And there certainly isn't communication with the damned or the dead.

Yet ask the majority of people and they will tell you the that the Ouija is somehow dangerous. Look at some of these comments from a discussion on whether the Ouija board should be sold in Toys'R'Us. They display the typical attitude and belief about Ouija boards:

What incidents? Rumour and urban legend and stories in the media such as the two above, where upon closer inspection the Ouija board becomes little more than an after-thought. Remember the three youngsters taken to hospital after playing with a talking board? Turns out that it was the hallucinogen Brugmansia that was responsible for their condition, not the Ouija board.

"Things they don't understand"? Maybe the users of such boards don't understand them, but within the scientific and skeptical community the phenomena is well understood! So what we are really condemning here is ignorance. 

And this is the most common claim: "The Ouija Board is dangerous".

The Ouija board isn't dangerous. The aura surrounding it and perceptions of it in many people's minds most certainly is. 

When people approach the use of a Ouija board in a heightened state the likelihood of having a terrifying experience that is poorly remembered after the event is vastly increased. Therefore leading to more urban legend and fear and ignorance.

The Ouija board's reputation may have a terrible effect on anyone suffering from mental health issues or learning disabilities, there's nothing supernatural about this, and the only counter is better understanding and the dismal of rumour and ignorance.