Humanist Ghost Busting: A Clarification

graves

A short while ago I wrote how I am a Humanist ghost buster and this confused a few people who seemed to think that I was mistaking humanism with humanitarianism. While I understand that suggestion I can assure you that I am not mistaken when I talk about my discovery of humanism shaping the way in which I conduct my paranormal research.

A Humanitarian approach is certainly a large part of being humanist but humanism is the reason for our humanitarian involvements. Being good for the sake of being good and not for post-death reward is what sets humanists apart from those who would undertake humanitarian work through other inspirations.

Instead of writing a long post about this I thought I’d share this video instead which I feel sums this up in a more concise manner.

Weakly Ghost Bulletin #15

WEAKLY GHOST BULLETIN HEADER

Is this the world’s most haunted town?

Toowoomba by name too-woo by nature, am I right? 

According to various news sites Toowoomba, Australia is the world’s Most Haunted Town. Evidence has been flooding into a Facebook page called Toowoomba Ghost Chasers set up by Kylie Samuels and Katie Harvey. Shame then that the evidence provided to back up this claim is mediocre, at best. The latest batch of evidence includes a ghost in a red dress floating through an old train station, a gray ghost sitting on a tombstone and a “blue mist” wafting through a cemetery but a quick look through the Facebook page reveals psuedo-scientific ghost hunters getting excited about any little oddity that turns up in a photo submitted to their page. The priority with these ghost hunters is headlines and attention rather than accuracy and a decent methodology so I can’t even bring myself to pass comment on their collection rubbish photos which look like a whole bunch of nothing to me. Boring. Except, of course, for this particular gem. Described as a mournful spirit sitting on a grave.

shadow toowoomba

Isn’t that just a shadow from a gravestone? Come on, guys… really?

Does mystery snap show the disembodied head of a lost GHOST child?

ghost child head

This is a ghost photo that has left ghost hunters clueless apparently. Where did it come from? What does it show? The Express reports ‘Ghostsnghouls.com, which posts the picture, said: “Little info exists about this photo which appears to show a boy’s disembodied head floating in the woods behind a cemetery. What do you think of the spooky image?”‘

I too was completely baffled by this photo and while inspecting it I actually noticed something that others seemed to have missed. If you look closely at the gravestone to the right of the photo you can actually make out another face which I believe belongs to the most attractive, talented, brilliant and all-round lovely woman I’ve ever seen.

hayley face ghost2

I bet she’s got a great blog… she looks the type.

Watch Grandma’s Face Appear In This Ultrasound

For real though? I have questions. Why is her face smaller than the baby? Why does she look terrified? How does a ghost get in the womb? Are we even pretending that we don’t know this is just an illusion given sentimental value by those who saw it? And why aren’t we talking about the evil lady that appears at the 26 seconds mark?

evil lady in sonogram

Yvette Fielding, We Need To Talk About Your Ghost Problem.

yvette

Dear Yvette Fielding,

There was a time when I would be glued to the television set when Most Haunted was on the screen because I thought it was a factual programme because you ensured us that nothing was staged on so many occasions. I still have my DVD collection somewhere in the house which I used to love. In 2005 I created my own paranormal research organisation inspired by what the Most Haunted team did because I became disillusioned with your promises of authenticity and the behaviour that you and your crew exhibited in your so-called pursuit of contact with ghosts. Back then I believed in ghosts and I was appalled by the manner in which you “spoke” to the ghosts. Particularly those women and men accused of witchcraft on Pendle Hill.

It was my opinion that if the dead did roam this planet after death then the souls of these people in particular deserved more respect than you afforded them considering the fact that witchcraft isn’t real, they weren’t witches and they were persecuted and executed by people who favoured superstition above reason. That particular Most Haunted Live show was hailed a success because of the rate at which members of the team were “attacked” by ghosts and dragged out of the building by the security team for their own safety.

Yet, even as a naive gullible 18-year-old, I couldn’t even pretend to believe what was happening in that building on Pendle Hill. I don’t have conclusive evidence that you fake activity on the show, but your reliance on dodgy psychics (Kreed Kafer… need I say more?) and the lack of good evidence that supports your claims that your “proof” has a supernatural cause might just speak for itself. There are also videos online that raise questions about your honesty on the show, like the two below:

Through the power of suggestion, use of camera-work that focusses on people rather than their surroundings and a “just asking questions” approach that relies on folklore and historic accounts you have managed to build mysteries where none exist and that’s quite an achievement. All of this is why I couldn’t help but laugh cynically when you recently complained in an interview that if you found evidence of a ghost nobody would believe you. In the interview you state ‘if we did film a real ghost on camera, people would say we faked it anyway … You can never, ever win.”

Yet, this isn’t because those who disbelieve you are in the wrong here, Yvette. It’s because people feel that they cannot trust you or the show Most Haunted to be honest when you claim it is. I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the boy who cried wolf and you, Yvette, are that boy.

Without the “dodgy” stunts on Most Haunted I would not have started to truly question the claims of the people around me and I would not have been led to my current position. Yet you will receive no thanks from me for bringing about this because the bastardised version of paranormal research presented by Most Haunted and other similar shows has almost ruined the field of paranormal research – a field that used to have to put up with idiots occasionally but, on the whole, was driven by a curiosity that was kept in check by a scientific methodology. Now it is overrun with unethical ghost hunters who favour psuedo-science rather than science. It is tainted by people who don’t really give a damn about maintaining an open-mind but are pursuing what they believe to be an easy rise to fame as the next paranormal superstar with their own show, books and lecture tours.

That’s your legacy, Yvette, and that’s why nobody will believe you when you say “ghost!”

Weakly Ghost Bulletin #14

WEAKLY GHOST BULLETIN HEADER

This week on in the Weakly Ghost Bulletin I will be using The Hermione Granger Scale of Interesting to rate the stories I cover. You’re welcome.

Is This Video Shot At SS Great Britain Proof Ghosts Exist?

No. It is not.

Firstly, the video is from 2009 and is being reported in 2015 so we can’t rely on the information being reported. Secondly, in the video someone is filming an exhibit on the SS Great Britain which is now based in Bristol. At the start of the video we are told that the voice of a child can be heard saying “shut up” at the 18 second mark and we are told that no child is present at the time of recording. However, when the video starts you can hear what sounds like children talking in the background, as well as the sounds of people moving around the old ship. I can hear someone say something that sounds like “shut up” in a whisper-like voice but there’s nothing about it that sounds child-like to me. It’s probably just someone who was behind the camera speaking without those focussing on what is being filmed realising it.

On The Hermione Granger Scale of Interesting this story is: Boring.

Ghost In Photo Sparks Supernatural Mystery

supernatural mystery - ghost app

The Welwyn Hatfield Times reports that ‘Vicky Mills was lying on her sofa when her grandson took a picture of her on his phone last Friday. It was only when then looked at it that they noticed the figure. Standing in the doorway to the front room is the figure of what appears to be a woman.’

Oh yes. Another Smartphone Ghost hoax. Pretty unoriginal by now though, to be honest. But wait…

‘Vicky said: “It’s so clear, down to the hand on the arm of the sofa. “I know you can get apps to create these effects but the phone had nothing like that on it.”’

I’ll believe that when I see the exif data from the photo. Until then, if it looks like a smartphone hoax, smells like a smartphone hoax and barks like a smartphone hoax… know what I’m saying?

On The Hermione Granger Scale of Interesting this story is: tedious.

Woman Takes Creepy Photo Of A Ghostly Figure In A Bar

photo at spirit fair

According to the Daily Fail ‘A photographer has been left spooked after capturing a chilling image on her camera of what appeared to be a ghostly figure standing on an empty floor by a bar. And to make the image more eerie, Felicity Cole, from Tasmania, was working at a spiritual, wellbeing, and positive energy-themed event.’

Oh boy.

The photo looks like the camera was simply set on long exposure and someone walked through the room and that’s what we’re seeing. Only… ‘Ms Cole told Daily Mail Australia her camera was set to a slow shutter speed – on a slow exposure – but what she captured has left everyone baffled. ‘On a slow exposure, if a person walked in front of the camera, they would look streamlined and it would show the whole body,’ Ms Cole told Daily Mail Australia. ‘But you can only see what seems to be legs and no upper cut.”

Erm, that happens sometimes but it depends on the settings used. Long/time exposure photography involves a long-duration shutter speed which helps capture stationary elements clearly and sharply while blurring moving elements. If someone moved through a photo set-up quickly you’d should expect to see something like the photo above, whereas if the moving elements of the photo were constant (stars in the night sky or water running over rocks) they’d be more consistent while still being distorted in appearance.

On The Hermione Granger Scale of Interesting this story is: You tried.

 

Hope you enjoyed this week’s Bulletin. If you spot a rubbish paranormal news story why not send me a Tweet? Please also consider supporting the video series exploring the paranormal that I’m currently planning over on Indiegogo. Every donation will help!

Can We Please Stop Arguing About Which Human Rights Matter Most?

human rights

Last week Ireland overwhelmingly voted in favour of a change to their constitution that will allow same-sex couples the same marriage rights as others. They were the first country to do this by vote which is both odd but also encouraging. Go, Ireland!

Victories like this one should be celebrated and cherished even though gaining the right to marry doesn’t solve all of the issues LGBT people face. I don’t believe that anyone who campaigned for the change to the constitution believed it would, but it’s a good start.

It didn’t surprise me to see people jumping on the celebration of this victory to point out how there were still other injustices in existence. Rebecca Watson, for example, sent out this tweet:

I understand fully where Watson is coming from with this but the timing is pretty bad and it doesn’t read well.  The tone suggests that those who campaigned for same-sex marriage don’t care about women having access to legal abortion and I’m sure that isn’t what Watson was suggesting, but that’s how it reads.

Personally I support campaigns for same-sex marriage, access to safe reproductive health care, access to education, evidence-based sex education in our schools, science education not interfered with by religious texts and much, much more… and just because I might talk about one aspect of a campaign I support at one given time, or just because on campaign might have been successful and I celebrate that doesn’t mean I don’t also care about those other campaigns too.

It’s easy to become frustrated, but I sincerely believe that the success of the vote in favour of same-sex marriage in Ireland should give us hope that the campaign for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland which criminalises abortion by equating the right to life of a pregnant woman with that of an embryo or foetus will be successful too.

Seeing people discuss the tweet from Watson reminded me of a recent tweet from Graham Lineham that also disappointed me:

I’ve debated people on several occasions about how a female Doctor in the Doctor Who series would be great, and a few months ago I was also called onto the radio several times to talk about the all-female Ghostbusters movie because I’m an actual female ghostbuster, but I would happily see the Doctor remain a man if it meant that women in Ireland could gain access to safe and legal abortions. Suggesting otherwise is quite insulting… BUT I GET THE ANGER.

I GET IT. Of course we should be angry! We should be angry because Ireland just had to vote in marriage rights for gay people and there are people elsewhere in the world who don’t have those rights, or worse, get killed for simply being LGBT. This shouldn’t need campaigning. It should just be normal.

Women in Ireland have their lives put at risk by the archaic constitution that doesn’t see their worth beyond that of a vessel and women elsewhere experience worse. Here in the UK we just had to deal with MP Fiona Bruce MP’s trying to push through an amendment to Part 5 of the Serious Crime Bill is an attempt to undermine the 1967 Abortion Act and women’s access to reproductive healthcare. Now we’ve got to worry about the Human Rights Act being replaced.

We all have our battles to fight and not all of these fights are done in public. Since being trained as a campaigner by Oxfam I have written so many letters and emails to politicians and MPs about such causes that I’ve had to create a special filing system just for the replies I get. None of this is done in public which is proof, surely, that although gaining publicity for a campaign is a good way to gain support, sometimes campaigning happens away from social media too.

Let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that because people don’t seem to care about the cause you support it doesn’t mean that don’t care at all. We have to be really careful to not allow our anger to turn this into an Opression Olympics. We have to turn our anger into determination and we have to keep fighting the good fight.

I also don’t think it’s truly possible to order injustices in a rank of most worthy or needing of support. How do you compare women not being able to gain safe health care with secular bloggers being hacked to death? How do you compare gay people being attacked and killed with countries torturing and killing alleged criminals? How do you compare systematic child abuse within a religion with the church interfering with AIDS treatments? You can’t. To do so would be unfair because they’re all desperate issues that need our support.

So let’s feed off of the Irish victory from last week and allow it to help us push forwards and make this world a better world for everybody. Tweet, write blogs, donate money, write letters, go to protests, put a sticker on your car, talk to your family and your colleagues, vote when you can. It all matters. I may sound like a massive lefty but I can’t help it. Ireland just achieved something incredible and it makes the other challenges we face seem less impossible somehow.

Recommended Links

Abortion Rights Campaign, Ireland
Abortion Rights, UK
Amnesty International
British Humanist Society
Good Thinking Society
Human Rights Watch
Oxfam
Reproductive Rights
Stonewall
Terrance Higgins Trust
They Work For You (track your MP)