The Worst Ghosts Of 2012

thumb ghostbusters

It’s that time of the year again, where I trawl through my endless list of ghost related web bookmarks to find the 5 Worst Ghosts of 2012. I did the same at the end of 2010 and the end of 2011 too. So, sit back, relax, and be prepared to groan. Not in horror, but in despair, at the 5 Worst Ghosts of 2012!

#5 – The Car Jumping Ghost

ghost baby car jumpr

When I first encountered the footage of a ghost baby jumping over a car in Nottingham I was instantly reminded of the ghost said to haunt The Wolfe Pub in Little Dockray, Cumbira. In 2010 The Wolfe Pub ghost was listed as Number 3 on my ‘Worst Ghosts of 2010’ list. The blob shaped ghost was caught on CCTV dusting a table before shooting up through the ceiling. It turned out to be a fly on the CCTV camera lens that was out of focus due to its close proximity, and it appeared to be glowing white because of the IR night-vision mode of the CCTV camera.

Why was I reminded of this particular ghost when watching footage of an allegedly athletic infant spook? They were both likened to Casper the Friendly Ghost, and they’re both insects. That’s why.

The Rigley’s set up a CCTV camera to monitor their driveway after a number of attacks on their car, and when a neighbour had ornaments stolen from her garden they kindly offered to go through their CCTV footage to see if they’d captured anybody around at the time of the theft. Lisa Rigley explains

I’m absolutely gobsmacked by this. I’ve got the footage here, it’s the image of a young child about four or five … We went through the tape to see if we could see anyone walking past our gate at the time of the theft and saw this weird hoodie-ghost jumping on our car. It really was spooky. It was one of those weird feelings where you just think to yourself, ‘what on earth is it? It looks like Casper the Friendly Ghost but it was certainly leaping all over the bonnet of our Volvo Estate.

She added

It’s a ghost, it’s got to be.

Just like the ‘ghost’, Lisa is making a huge leap here. I have no idea how she has concluded that this is a child aged Four of Five, but when you watch the footage it’s easy to think the oddity is near the car, but in all reality it is actually closer to the IR night-vision CCTV camera. The close proximity to the camera is what resulted in the glowing appearance and large size, which is exactly what is seen in The Wolfe Pub ghost footage too. There’s no shortage of videos and photos like this – that show something glowing, out of focus, and blob shaped that wasn’t seen at the time, however, I chose this athletic ghost baby as #5 for the Worst Ghosts of 2012 simply because of the build up that results in one of the weakest and funniest ghost videos I have ever seen.

#4 – The Cumbria Demolition Ghost

demolition ghost

The Demolition ghost was one of the first ghosts to hit the British headlines in 2012. After taking photos of a building about the be demolished, Demolition supervisor Robert Johnson thought nothing more of the photos until he uploaded them to his computer some time later and noticed a ghostly figure in the window of one of the photos.

“It wasn’t until I got home and showed my wife that we spotted the woman, you can see the jewellery on her and everything. I’ve always been a sceptic but I’ll have to believe in ghosts now.”

A colleague of his added,

The day before we took the photo we were stripping the building inside and I noticed the chandelier swinging on its own. We said at the time the place felt strange. My hairs were standing on end when I saw the photo. I believe it is a ghost.

I don’t. This was a tricky photo because the building has been demolished so there’s nothing to compare it with (despite my best attempts on google earth and similar). However, working with what we have to hand it becomes apparent that there are several problem with the ‘ghost’ in the photo. If you compare their height to the doorways behind them ‘they’ reach about half way up. You would expect an adult to be at least a foot or two higher. Not only that but the hair starts about half way back on the crown of their head and they have a flat face. If you focus on the empty room behind the ‘figure’ you start to notice doorways, shadows in the room and other slight details – it’s most likely that this apparition is the result of things inside the empty room creating the illusion of a person. Once you see it you can’t un-see it, but that doesn’t mean it’s there.

#3 – The Ghost of Clevedon Pier

clevedon ghost

The Clevedon Pier Ghost general a lot of media coverage, and attention from amateur ghost hunters from around the region. See examples herehereherehere, and here. It was an intriguing ghost story that gathered momentum fast and caught my interest very early on, especially when student Matthew Hales took a photo that many claimed showed the ghostly figure standing out on the Pier early one morning when it was still locked up. Other reports included figures being seen at the end of the pier that vanished when people turned around, and burnt toast being smelt occasionally in the gift shop.

I contacted the Pier Mistress, Linda Strong, in February as the story gained more and more coverage in the news. I wanted to chat to her about the things that had been witnessed, the ideas being bandied around by people, and the chances of going to the pier to investigate. I was told that there was already a very long list of paranormal teams wanting to ghost hunt on the pier and that I’d have to wait until at least May before I could get ‘a slot’ despite not being a team myself, and not wanting to access the pier at nighttime like the others. Disappointed, but not shocked, I turned the conversation to the questions I had for Linda but was told that she was unable to talk as she had meetings all day, and that I should call back. This happened time and time again and I was getting nowhere with the case. All the while, amateur researchers such as Bristol based Richard Case, were going out onto the Pier under the cover of darkness to hunt for ghosts using pseudo-scientific research methods and finding the usual “evidence” of a haunting. 

Not getting anywhere with Linda, I started to think outside of the box and investigate the ghost in other ways. By digging around online, visiting the pier unannounced as a member of the public, and speaking to the anglers who use the pier for sea fishing I was able to determine that most of the stories associated with the ghost on the pier were nonsense, and that the photo of the ghost doing the rounds was actually of a fisherman called Vic at the end of the pier. Volunteers and fishermen explained to me that the pier is open 24/7 for those with a key, and that the sightings on the end of the pier were corner-of-the-eye glimpses of the furniture there – including a cardboard cutout that tourists can put their heads through, and a telescope that often caught people off guard. Speaking to one volunteer I discovered that a lot of the longtime volunteers were fed up with the pier mistress using the silly ghost stories to general publicity for the pier because they felt the pier and the surrounding natural beauty were stronger selling points. Quite.

With this in mind, and because of the evasive behaviour of Linda Strong, I am placing the ghost of Clevedon Pier in the Top 5 Worst Ghosts on 2012. Do visit the pier, though. It’s stunning!

#2 – The Ron Bowers Ghost Photos

shadow figure

Although these ghost photos (and the haunting they’re associated with) do not date from 2012 they’re included on this list because it was this year that they gained the most attention through the media – on Great British Ghosts hosted by Michaela Strachan, and on ITV’s This Morning, which you can watch below. I’ll point out now that I’m not commenting upon the experiences that Vanessa Mitchell and others may or may not have had while at The Cage in Essex, I am simply commenting upon these extremely dodgy ghost photos taken at The Cage by Ron Bowers.

ITV’s This Morning appearance

After seeing the This Morning feature I searched for more information on the photographs and found loads of them on the facebook page for The Cage. Something seemed really off about them, but I wasn’t quite sure what.

They didn’t really stand out as Photoshop forgeries to me but I wasn’t sure what I was looking at, so I did what any good paranormal researcher should do, I asked a selected few other spooky people for their opinions who all came back with the same ideas – either we were seeing something being held over the camera lens, or something that had been drawn onto the photos. Deborah Hyde, the editor of The Skeptic magazine, pointed out that the body proportions for the ‘ghosts’ were a bit off, and that the torsos were wider than they should be, which is a classic mistake people make when drawing figures. I also got a tip off from an anonymous source about a magic trick that involved the palming of small pieces of acetate with ‘ghosts’ drawn on them that would then be held over the camera lens to appear as though a ghost was in front of the camera. This meant that anyone looking over your shoulder as you took the photo would see the ghost through the view finder – something that eye witnesses had reported with the photos taken by Ron Bowers. This is done to add authenticity to the photos.

So, although I can’t say with 100% certainty that the results of such a trick are what we are seeing in the Ron Bowers photo I can say that it seems more likely than those anomalies being ghosts, and that lands the Ron Bowers ghost photos from The Cage in Essex as the Number 2 spot on my list of the Worst Ghosts on 2012. Sorry, Ron.

#1 – Jonny Junior, the Ghost Babycheltenhambaby

The Gloucestershire Echo reported this particular spook in June after a Cheltenham resident named John Gore contacted them to say the ghost of a baby had been caught on a photo taken in his lounge. He told the paper

One of my cats kept scratching at the wall and jumping up in the area and we’re always taking pictures of the cats. When we got it through we were surprised to find the little figure just stood by the sofa. I have never really worried or had any ghost sightings before. We have had a few strange things happen before, like the TV kept changing channels and turning itself off.

John instantly linked these two pieces of information together  – the odd things and the strange photo – to create a ghost. The only problem was that the ghost in the photo was a fake ghost created using an iPhone app. I recognised it immediately as I have the same app. Normally I would have rolled my eyes and ignored the story, but this one was different. The story goes on to say

I showed it to a lady over the road who has lived here for years. She said somebody who lived in the house before us had a child who died of cot death. It is hard to tell whether it is a boy or a girl, but we have called the ghost Jonny Junior, and it looks to be about a toddlers age.

This coupled with the fact that the paper had included in the story the address at which the photo had been taken made me extremely concerned for the effect this story could have if it was read by the wrong person – namely, the woman reported to have lost a child to cot death in that house. It was extremely possible that she was still local and would have seen the address that John Gore lived at and realised that it was her deceased baby people thought was in the photo. It was with this in mind that I phoned the journalist that wrote the story and explained to her that the photo was a hoax and how it had been done – she was very interested and wrote a story on the hoax, which extracted an admittance of guilt from a friend of John Gore. Although this was a relatively lazy hoax photo it made the Number One spot on this list because of the harm it could have caused. You can read about the ethics of ghost hunting here.

So there you have it, the Worst Ghosts of 2012. There are probably worst stories out there – and the truly horrifying stories involve ghost hunters doing the most horrendous things because they view what they do as a public service, or because they haven’t considered the ethical implications of their actions. I wonder what terrible ghost stories await us all in 2013?

Read about The Worst Ghosts of 2010 and The Worst Ghosts of 2011.
With thanks to Bob Dezon for research guidance and assistance. 

Four Lessons From 2012

sea background

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster year, but then, when are years anything else?

The one lesson that I am constantly reminded of year after year is that us humans are so damned… human – with our limited experience being all we have, our ability to be so irrational a lot of the time, and our stubbornness and our reluctance to hold our hands up and say ‘I’m wrong’. So, here are four lessons that I learnt from 2012 – some came about from mistakes I made, and some were things I had known all along that had just become static noise in an endless sea of noisy ideas.

#1 – Be a better investigator

“I learnt from Joe Nickell, it is easy to sit at home and speculate as to what is happening and what the intentions of the people involved are, but you very rarely get things right by that process of investigation. It isn’t until you actually visit places and see the areas involved through your own eyes that you can start to get a feel for what is what. It isn’t until you speak to the people involved that you can start to understand what has happened. I have become so involved in the race to be the first to comment on the latest paranormal news story that I’ve really lost  a taste for what good investigative behaviour is, and I aim to remedy that immediately.” [from: The Monster Men]

In March I went monster hunting with Joe Nickell in Windermere and Loch Ness, in what was probably one of the best weeks of my life so far. Not only did I get to meet and work with Joe, who is a legend himself, but I got to visit some incredible places and meet some wonderful people, and I was made to rethink the way in which I approach paranormal cases in the future. There was, for me at least, a real sense of adventure throughout the week as we discovered leads and previously unheard tips about what may have caused monster sightings. As someone whose research was done mainly online it was an experience I had often missed out on, and something I promised to remedy as soon as I got home.

You can read more about my trip with Joe Nickell by clicking here. As soon as I got home from that trip in March I took a fresh approach to a case I was working on at the time and decided to do some investigating on the ground which led me to solve the mystery. Later in the year the eagerness some skeptics have to dismiss or solve paranormal cases without supporting research and data would be demonstrated with the latest Loch Ness Monster photo. Although it turned out to be a hoax, many skeptics dismissed it as one without any evidence. So much of my research is done offline now and it’s so much more fun and rewarding.

#2 – Talk & listen to young people

It showed me that the uncritical media coverage of these subjects was reaching a younger audience, and that these kids in front of me were well equipped with the critical thinking skills needed to assess the claims such coverage makes because of things such as Camp Quest. Yet there are children out there that probably don’t have those skills. There are probably children out there who are like the younger me, getting terrified at the idea than panthers are prowling in the wild and that ghosts lurk in the shadows… [from: My trip to Camp Quest: Engaging with Children]

Earlier this year I was invited to speak at Camp Quest UK about ghosts – my talk was titled ‘ghosts on the brain’ and explored and demonstrated how ‘What we remember isn’t always what happened’ and ‘What we see isn’t always what was there’. The children in the audience blew me away with their interaction and their questions and their willingness to not only learn new things, but to question what they didn’t understand and to answer their peers questions too. My time at CampQuest made me think back to my childhood when my questions were answered with nonsense ideas (ghosts at home, god at school), and part of me wished that something like CampQuest had been around when I was younger. Not only to rid me of my irrational fears, but also to help me learn to think critically from a young age. I think that’s a really key thing for young people – and it’s something I wasn’t taught in school during science lessons either. There’s never a lack of adults thinking it is their right to decide what their child believes, but armed with the right tools, the right information, and allowing them the freedom to explore ideas for themselves might just set young people on the track to examining things rationally.

#3 – Never be too certain

When you speak with such certainty about how right and moral you are in relation to your critics without considering the possibility that you may be missing a nuance or two, you cannot hold any sort of moral or intellectual high ground. – Barbara Drescheron oversimplifaction & certainty, ICBS Everywhere blog

Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about how I got caught up in a lot of drama within the skeptical blogosphere without being as skeptical of myself and those I agreed with as I was of those I disagreed with. I was guilty of sometimes speaking with the certainty Barbara Drescher mentions in her post ‘on oversimplification & certainty‘. It wasn’t an instant realisation either. I observed a number of instances where the behaviour of those I had been agreeing with towards people they didn’t agree with made me stop in my tracks with shock. There are certain irrational behaviours and tactics that I cannot condone, and it saddened me to discover that people I held in high regard didn’t feel the same. I realised I had thrown my lot in with people I thought I had a lot in common with, when in reality I didn’t once past certain ideas. My approach to skepticism was not like theirs at all, and it was a huge wake up call for me.

#4 – Be hungry for change

“There’s no need to sharpen my pencils anymore, my pencils are sharp enough. Even the dull ones will make a mark” Ze Frank, An invocation for begginings, Youtube

I’m not going to pretend that I can change the world, but I know that I can make small changes sometimes. 2012 started off with a bang for me when the Advertising Standards Authority agreed with my complaint about the claims a group of faith healers called ‘Healing on the Streets’ were making. They told the group they couldn’t continue to make the claims the way they were. The huge media coverage of the ruling, the appeal, and the final decision in the case was never expected, but it did send out a really important message, and it caused a lot of debate – from regional news to international news outlets, radio stations, television shows, and more. All of this happened because this blogger made a complaint to an independent regulator as a British citizen because I felt something wasn’t quite right with the claims on the groups leaflets. It isn’t the first time a complaint of mine to the ASA has been successful, but it’s certainly the complaint that generated the most attention to the fact that bogus claims wont go unchallenged.

Life is, I think, about knowing your limits – and recognising those limits as things to be broken.

In 2013 I shall: make noise, laugh, listen, talk, think, learn, change things, and be hungry for more. Join me?

Of Apparitions And Imaginations


I adore a good ghost story, but more so, I’ve come to realise, when the ghost is never seen.

I love The Woman in Black for the many times it has made me reconsider turning my bedside lamp off, and A Christmas Carol just wouldn’t be the same if the ghosts didn’t actually turn up to serve Ebeneezer with his warning, yet there’s something terrifying about The turn of the Screw where you’re never sure if the apparitions are physical or imaginary. In The Woman in Black I always found the rocking noise on the floor above, the door that would not open, and the dog growling at something unknown, to be more terrifying than the sightings of the woman in the graveyards.

Henry James, author of The Turn of the Screw once said he preferred ghosts that were extensions of reality – “the strange and sinister embroidered on the very type of the normal and easy,” as he put it in the New York Edition preface to his final ghost story, The Jolly Corner.

The apparitions in Shakespeare plays are very much the type that James might not have cared for, and yet the Elizabethan audience would have expected their ghosts to be no other way. Shrouded moaning figures appearing with a thunderclap, or in a puff of smoke – often with a message or a warning to deliver. The apparitions of his victims to Richard III is a poignant piece of writing that I immensely enjoyed discovering at school.

It is now dead midnight.
Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.
What do I fear? Myself? 

Interestingly, modern stage adaptations of Shakespeare’s Macbeth see the apparition of Banquo at the banquet missing – leaving Macbeth in dread and fear at what now appears to be a product of his imagination, rather than the cause being something visibly paranormal. Is this a reflection of modern audiences? Or simply the realisation that the ghosts that aren’t seen are more dreaded than those that are? That the terror is in the suspense, the scream in the apparition?

I once wrote that the scariest ghosts I’ve ever encountered are the ones who, for a brief moment in time, lived on my bedside cabinet. These spectres live on ear-marked pages, their every action dictated by printed words yet imagined in my fascinated mind. The many nights I have spent camped out in haunted buildings within the county of Wiltshire have seen me jump and scream at noises and movements – but never at apparitions. It was the stories told by eye-witnesses that scared me more than the ghosts I ever saw. It was the anticipation that got me – not the ghosts. In nearly a decade of researching ghosts I have only ever seen two or three things that would be considered by some to be ghostly apparitions, and each time I was extremely calm and never scared. Swap that for a bang or clang in a dark, damp cellar said to be haunted and I’d have been scrambling for the exit in an instant.