Britain’s Slenderman: The Evolution Of Ghosts And Monsters

The Slenderman

The character, Slenderman, was created in 2009 in a story posted to the website Something Awful by Eric Knudsen. In January of this year it was claimed by several newspapers that Slenderman had been seen by several people in Cannock Chase in Staffordshire, England. Lee Brickley, who prompted the stories by approaching the media in the first place pointed out that there were sightings that pre-date the creation of Slenderman and several references have since been made to a 2001 sighting of an entity that resembles the character Slenderman, the eye-witness account of which was published in 2008 in the book There’s Something In The Woods written by Nick Redfern.

The suggestion that these earlier sightings might add weight to recent sightings being significant- a sentiment echoed by Redfern himself at the end of a Mysterious Universe article -is misguided. People often underestimate the influence that oral traditions of telling stories of strange creatures and ghosts can have upon the way in which people interpret the things they encounter. I don’t think the sudden emergence of numerous eye-witness accounts of tall, slender, human-like entities in the Cannock Chase area is indicative of something paranormal in nature but, instead, revealing of the human nature to borrow ideas from the folk stories that we grew up with in an attempt to explain the unknown.

And, although the Slenderman character was created in 2009 it isn’t difficult to imagine that the character was directly or indirectly influenced by creatures that exist and survive in folklore tales handed down from generation to generation. Slenderman is a modern-day Bogeyman and the folk tales that have been inspired by the Bogeyman are impressively numerous.

A grayMany in the Cannock Chase area reported that they saw the so-called Slenderman entity while experiencing sleep paralysis, but if they lived in a different part of the world they might perhaps report that they saw a Grey- an alien considered synonymous with E.T. encounters -rather than a spirit or monster.

Cultural influences can play a huge role in determining how people report what they see and when an anecdote is shared with the national or international media it too can influence the way that people interpret what they experience. What was once considered a mundane experience can suddenly be given a new significance based upon the word of another person simply through the power of suggestion!

A great example of this would be tourists visiting Lake Windermere who saw a strange shaped buoy out on the water and thought nothing of it until they later read a newspaper that reported some people thought there was a lake monster in Windermere after which they claimed they too had seen the lake monster.

As the way in which society communicates changes so too do the ways in which folk stories are shared. Traditional oral folk stories have gradually been displaced by books, newspapers, radio, television and, more recently, the internet. The creation of the internet made it even easier for people to access folk stories not only from people in their own culture but also from other cultures they wouldn’t have come into contact with if it wasn’t for having online access. This is something that we see happening when people in Western countries claim to have captured ghosts on camera or video that resemble Asian ghosts, for example.

This relatively new platform from which folk tales can be shared brings a number of problems with it. It’s easy to access folk stories out of context and presume them to be factual without realising that what you’re reading is a story. It’s also possible to stumble upon hoax stories- often called fakelore -that are made to look like traditional folk literature even though they are not. Sometimes these manufactured “fakelore” stories aren’t recognised as such and get shared as though they weren’t hoaxes and become twisted up in the fabric of traditional lore.

This happens within the ghost hunting subculture too. Ghost folklore stories inspire ghost hunters to visit the locations mentioned in the stories in the search of the legendary ghosts. Often the ghost hunter will have strange experiences at the location that, despite there probably being a perfectly rational cause, will become part of the ghost lore. Before long ghost hunters are simply inspired by the stories of other ghost hunters and all of their experiences become part of the fabric of the ghost lore that first inspired them.

The problem is, of course, that these stories are based on anecdotes that are often passed from generation to generation and become embellished over the years as they are retold. As convincing as an anecdote might be and as reliable as an eyewitness might seem it isn’t possible to use the word of mouth as a reliable source. The evolution of traditional lore is truly fascinating but for a paranormal researcher or investigator to rely purely on anecdotes is limiting.

“Anecdotes do not make a science. Ten anecdotes are no better than one, and a hundred anecdotes are no better than ten” Frank J. Sulloway

Stories are where paranormal research is supposed to start and not where it’s supposed to finish. An over-reliance on folklore and anecdotes and a lack of rational inquiry into claims they encounter means that some paranormal researchers are doomed to a future of constantly reinventing the Bogeyman…

Recommended Reading

Folk Literature | Encyclopædia Britannica
The Cultural Evolution of Storytelling and Fairy Tales [excerpt] | Princeton University Press

Weakly Ghost Bulletin #7

WEAKLY GHOST BULLETIN HEADER

GHOST CHILD SPOTTED IN ABANDONED ORPHANAGE ON GOOGLE STREET VIEW

ghost child google street view

The Metro reports that the above photo ‘which came to light on yesterday Friday 13th [a/n: spooooky], is believed to show a child weeping inside the Victorian red-brick building.’ For those struggling to locate the ghost, look at the bottom left corner of the bottom central window.

…what do you mean you don’t see it? Have you got your eyes closed? Below s a zoomed in version for you.

this is not a ghost child

Oh, wait. That isn’t the ghost of a weeping child. That’s Lotney “Sloth” Fratelli from The Goonies. Or it could just be something inside the building or something reflecting on the window, perhaps. Either way, slow news day, Metro?

"Hey, you guys!"
“Hey, you guys!”

GHOSTLY FIGURE PHOTOGRAPHED IN BRADFORD’S BOLLING HALL

Bolling Hall spook

A paranormal events company (not to be confused with proper investigators) claim that somebody attending one of their events held at Bolling Hall on February 14th (how romantic!) has captured a ghostly figure on a photograph taken along a corridor where, legend says, the ghost of a grey lady is seen walking.

Without the original photo we can only go on their word that the photo is not faked but, to be honest, you’d expect a fake ghost photo to be better quality than this alleged ghost. I can hardly make anything out in the photo unless I stare at it for a long time and allow the piexellation to form familiar shapes. It’s easy to see that this is just an illusion that is only half convincing if you’re desperate for it to be. Nice free publicity for the events company though! Kerching!

…AND NOW FOR SOMETHING A BIT DIFFERENT

Finally, for WGB#7 I want to share a video that has been recently doing the rounds on my social media tmelines despite originally being posted on the ‘Ghosts i have a spirit in my house’ Facebook page back in 2014. Watch below:

In the video a woman claims she is hearing noises in her kitchen and, therefore, has turned on a camera to record. Low and behold, moments later, a spoon begins to move around while she does her best (and fails) to look shocked in the background. Many are claiming that this video is fake and that the people in it have used fishing wire to make the spoon move. Personally I think they’ve actually used a strong magnet being held just out of view of the camera. I don’t have a magnet strong enough to recreate this (fridge magnets are rubbish) but it would be interesting to see a recreation if anyone does have one…

Amy Bruni Has A Point…

bruni FB post

I used to identify as part of “the skeptic movement” but after a lot of consideration I stopped doing so after being unable to agree with the actions many took in the name of “skepticism” which, for me, has always been more of a methodology than anything else. I wrote about this a while ago here.

Recently, Amy Bruni- who used to be on the US hit television show Ghost Hunters –made a post on her Facebook page that reprimands skeptics for their behaviour. It was (I believe) because the Guerilla Skeptics (GS) group recently made information public (here and here) about a number of undercover stings they did on Chip Coffey who claims to be psychic.

Bruni said

I don’t see people who believe in paranormal and psychic phenomena accosting “skeptics” at their conventions and gathering – or posting constant blogs and forums about how skepticism is terrible.

Strangely enough, we really don’t care what their belief system is – because it is their right. And personally, I don’t care or have to justify what I believe to someone else. So, why do they feel the need to constantly bash what we do?

So, why do they feel the need to constantly bash what we do? Arrange “guerrilla stings” on psychic and paranormal conventions? I mean – puh-lease, you must have something better to do. Truly – there’s a while lot of bad in this world. And if your “cause” is to take on people whose thoughts on fide and existence are different from yours (but causing you no harm), I think it’s time you take a little look at yourself.

Some people have (rightly) pointed out that Bruni doesn’t seem to understand what skepticism is in this rant and is using the behaviour of a few bad eggs to dismiss a whole methodology. However, she has since made a clarification that suggests the above was written out of anger and that she does actually understand rational inquiry perfectly well. She says

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.

I hear you, Amy. It seems to me that Bruni isn’t suggesting for a minute that Coffey has the right to not have his claims questioned. Her issue is with the way in which the GS went about doing so.

Psychics in general routinely refuse to have their abilities tested in controlled conditions that would rule out positive hits being the result of chance. The results of their public readings often suggest they could be using other non-paranormal techniques and that warrants further questioning. I personally admire the research into psychics that the Good Thinking Society does and inspires others to do. They go to a show and report on what they see as an audience member. In recent years this method alone- with no stings or intentional misleading involved -has shed light on techniques that Sally Morgan might be using at her psychic shows simply through the power of observation… methods that some audience members report she has since occasionally stopped using so much.

That’s pretty powerful.

I have written previously about my concerns with the actions of the GS which you can read here and here. The GS claim that they’re not trying to change the minds of the people who already believe in Chip Coffey and his paranormal abilities and that they’re just trying to educate the general public… but I’d like to politely suggest that they’re doing nothing more than shouting into an already noisy echo chamber and serving their own interests. Both of their stings provided us with no new information, by the way, so although using tricks to exposure scams can work (Randi exposing Popoff, for example) I think it’s important to make sure the ends justify the means…

As someone who uses rational inquiry to investigate paranormal claims and the strange experiences that people report having I’d stand with Amy Bruni and Chip Coffey believers any day rather than associate myself with “skeptic activists” who don’t seem able to see past their own noses. It isn’t always about being right and it isn’t always about point scoring. There’s a whole human side (dare I say humanist side?) to being involved in paranormal research that so many people miss and that’s pretty tragic, don’t you think?

Thoughts On The “Religion Flies Planes Into Buildings” Bullshit

science flies you to the moon

Terrorism, according to the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) is ‘the threatened or actual use of illegal force and violence by a non-state actor to attain a political, economic, religious or social goal through fear, coercion, or intimidation’.

According to the GTI, in 2014 alone 17,958 people were killed in terrorist attacks which is 61% more than the previous year. 82% of all deaths from terrorist attacks occur in just 5 countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria and 90% of these attacks occurred in countries that already have gross human rights violations. Four groups were the dominant contributors: the Taliban, Boko Haram, ISIL, and al Qa’ida.

science flies you to the moon

A friend of a friend today shared a photo of a t-shirt being sold by an atheist group on Facebook and it had the following slogan on it:

Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.

What a cheap way to score points at the expense of those whose only crime is to believe in the same god as people who commit acts of terror. Let’s face it, the ‘flies you into buildings‘ comment is aimed at Muslims because of the attacks of this nature on the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001. On a purely anecdotal level, I know a fair few people who are Muslim and none of them have ever been inspired to fly a plane into a building on purpose.

The t-shirt and the slogan upon it is just indicative of a bigger issue that I want to address. I’m atheist. I believe in no gods or goddesses but that doesn’t automatically make me a good person. I identify as a secular humanist and that’s why it makes me so sad to see other atheists turning their apparent anti-theism into anti-humanism. If you cannot attack/debate religion without attacking religious people then I don’t think that makes you a very rational person.

It’s true that some people use religion to justify their acts or regimes of hatred, intolerance and violence but such hateful and murderous acts have no place at the feet of others who peacefully practice the same religions. Their religious beliefs do not automatically make them bad people. So why does society feel so compelled to keep putting them there? Why do we hold religious people accountable for the actions of others whom they have no control over?

Maybe it’s because we need someone to blame and Mohammed next door is the most easily accessible target? I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist but I do know that it gets really tiring really fast to see some atheists acting this way.

Extremism flies you into buildings. Extremism leads to the kidnapping of girls who dare seek education. Extremism leads to the burning of hostages. Extremism harms everyone… but as shown in the statistics from the 2014 GTI report, the very people this stupid t-shirt targets as bad people are those most likely to be affected by acts of terrorism. Talk about kicking someone when they are down… 

Oh, and by the way, Muslims died in the 9/11 attacks, and some of people who flew humans to the moon were religious, including the astronauts.

Weakly Ghost Bulletin #6

WEAKLY GHOST BULLETIN HEADER

GHOST CAUGHT IN PHOTO BEHIND MUSICIANS

photo of teen stars with window in background

Many people are convinced that the photo above (as well as a series of other photos that can be seen by BELOW) show a ghostly figure in the window at the back of the room.

additional photos of Teen T.O.P alleged ghost

The “figure” appears to move across the window in different shots but event though it does look quite odd it’s most likely to have been a reflection of something inside or just outside of the room that has been lit up by the camera flash. You can see what appears to be the reflection of a wall or polished surface next to the “figure” (to the left of the window frame) which has also been illuminated by the camera flash.

PARANORMAL GROUP INVESTIGATES LIGONIER THEATRE

westmoreland

TRIB Live reports that ‘members of the Westmoreland Paranormal Society conducted a recent investigation in an attempt to record the existence of paranormal activity.’ The team who inaccurately describe themselves as scientific in their approach claim that the above photo is ‘honestly the best piece of evidence that we collected at the theater. We sat on the stage and asked if the woman who sings could come to us, this is what we captured.’

Um… what? Where is the ghost supposed to be? Well, apparently it is in the bottom left of this photo but all I see is a shaky, wobbly photo taken in the dark in a venue that the newspaper themselves describe as ‘dusty’.

Wow…

IS ELTHAM McDONALD’S HAUNTED BY GHOST OF HEADLESS PREGNANT WOMAN?

Prize for most tasteless ghost-related headline so far in 2015 goes to… News Shopper! Congratulations.

So-called Spirit Medium Sally Cudmore claims that the Eltham branch of McDonald’s, where staff report sensing an entity of some kind (but don’t seem entirely bothered by it), is haunted by a headless pregnant woman. Well… I say that, but it could have been a woman whose name begins with J who had a pink baby who liked the basement or died in the basement and was strangled or beheaded or, or, or…

Riiiiiiiight…

By the way, last week I failed to spot the story of the “mysterious rolling bottle of juice” captured on video at a UK pub but Skeptic’s Boot has a great summary of the story here.