That Child Who’d Vote UKIP

ukip child

A British schoolchild has been filmed telling Tristram Hunt that he would vote UKIP in the upcoming General Election because they’d “get all the foreigners out of the country.” The video is really difficult to watch because it’s awful to see a child repeating what he has probably heard adults saying. As children we trust our parents to be right even when they’re not and it can have a devastating effect in many ways.

Watching the video was a chilling experience and took me back to a very similar and embarrassing experience that I had at school when I was younger. I can’t remember the exact context but we had been tasked to write a letter to the Prime Minister about something that we felt needed to change or improve and I wrote about the number of foreign people coming into the country. The teacher was walking around the room and engaging us children about what we had written and when he got to my desk he asked me why I held that view. The words I said are still very clear in my mind to this very day, “I think they need to sort things out their own countries before they come over here and use up our resources.”

Wait, what? Thirteen-year-old Hayley Stevens didn’t know immigration statistics and policy, she didn’t know anything about public resources or the benefits system in the country, so what on earth was she talking about? Well, I was parroting what I had read in The Sun newspaper that my parents would buy and read on an almost daily basis. I was parroting what the biased media tell us with scary headlines and I was parroting what I’d heard certain older relatives saying (in fact, a certain relative said the exact same thing Thirteen-year-old me said just last Christmas.)

Today a child of that age can connect to the internet and gain access to all sorts of information in minutes to help develop an informed opinion but when I was Thirteen we didn’t have that luxury in our house. I think we had a dial-up modem on the family computer at that point but we certainly didn’t use it 24/7 and I was limited to the media that my parents brought into the house which came mainly in the form of The Sun and ITV News.

But even with the internet access of today it is still possible to be misled and tricked into thinking incorrect things are true by the media who provide unfair balance to those who are not experts, and by twisting facts or simply making them up to suit their agenda.

political compass result graphic

I don’t hate immigrants. In fact, I now try to champion immigration and foreign aid as the good, positive things that they are and when I took The Political Compass test recently I was in the left libertarian quadrant (the red dot on the picture above is me, apparently.) So what changed?

I learned how to question stuff people claimed was true…

…and I’m glad that I didn’t grow up to view the world with a mindset shaped by such limited, biased input because I believe that every act of intolerance lessens what it means to be a human. When we are intolerant of another person we are intolerant of humanity.

Yet, that could so easily have been different because we’re taught what to think and not how to think as kids, and watching the young boy tell Tristram Hunt that he would vote UKIP reminded me of this. Children want to learn but when they’re not taught how to properly evaluate information it can impact their ability to think reasonably.

Let’s not hate the child for saying what he did, and let’s not even hate the parents for potentially making him thing this way intentionally or unintentionally – let’s hate the biased media that creates an echo chamber full of lies to twist the way people view the world around them and to turn good people against other good people. Fuck them.

Weakly Ghost Bulletin #9


What? Oh my gosh. Can it be? Is this… why yes! Yes, this is the Weakly Ghost Bulletin, risen from the grave like Jesus himself. Hallelujah!

Eerie Photo of Little Girl Followed By Ghost Goes Viral

Anastassia Perets ghost phot

This photo is really creepy when you look at it without consideration. The little girl in the photo, Anastassia Perets, claims that upon looking back at photos from her childhood she spotted a mysterious girl in the background of this photo of her that her parents say was not present. In this context the image looks really creepy… but Perets is 21 now and she is very young in the photo meaning that the best part of two decades have passed since the photo was taken. Us humans have really bad memories but we think that we have really good memories meaning that we rely upon what we remember being accurate more than we should. In my opinion this “creepy” apparition is probably another child.

h/t The Anomalist

This Baby Was Photobombed By A Ghastly Hand

ghostly hand behind baby

This photo is so old that the baby now has a law degree. It was determined back when it first surfaced in 2013 that it’s entirely possible that the hand belongs to a child standing in the background of the photo even though we are told there was nobody present when the photo was taken. You can see that they’re wearing a white t-shirt and grey shorts or trousers. The pink blur at the top left of the photo is a finger slightly over the lens. Boring.

Ghost Girl Appears In Photo Taken At El-Paso High

el paso ghost

The image above apparently shows a ghostly figure standing near two people at a football stadium. You can make out what appears to be two stumps legs. My initial impression is that this is a faked photo or the “ghost” could be a photographic artefact. It’s so difficult to tell either way because the quality of the photo is so, so bad.

Unidentified Dementor-like Mist Flies Past Car In Nebraska

A woman filming a storm while in a moving car caught this odd object flying through the air at speed. People have been quick to say this is a UFO or, more bizzarely, a dementor from the Harry Potter universe. Guys, as much as it pains me to say this what with being a huge Potter fan, the Harry Potter books are fictional. There are no such things as happiness-guzzling dementors flying around.

Speculation is rife over what this mystery object could be and although my money is on it being Tony Stark most people think it is some sort of a test drone.

And now for something completely different…

College staff thought they were being haunted by ghosts… it was actually a goat

‘Caretakers at Coleg Cambria’s Northop campus kept reporting lights were regularly being left on in the rare breeds centre’s goat barn. Baffled animal centre manager Wendy Gacem began to suspect a ghost or intruders were to blame. But the truth finally emerged after Jake the Bagot Billy Goat was caught red-handed flicking the switch’ the Daily Post reports.

…because when lights are left turned on the first conclusion to reach is ‘ghosts or intruders’, right?

The Anti-Science Bias Of Ghost Hunters

anti-science bias

I wrote previously about a research team at Clarkson University headed up by Professor Shane Rogers that seek to establish whether there is a link between air quality and strange experiences people often associate with a haunting or with ghosts. Rogers said “experiences reported in many hauntings are similar to mental or neurological symptoms reported by individuals exposed to toxic moulds. Psychoactive effects of some fungi are well-known, whereas the effects of others such as indoor moulds are less researched.”

I have seen a frankly bizarre and at times bitter reaction from large swathes of ghost hunting communities to this news such as:

“Oh yeah? How do they explain EVP then?”

“Mould doesn’t explain all of MY experiences!”

“These guys are stupid. They just need to see to believe!”

It is completely bizarre for anyone- regardless of what they believe -to react with hostility towards people who are conducting scientific research in order to learn more about why people have strange experiences. Learning more about the world around us and establishing facts about our experiences as human beings who are greatly influenced by the environments we live and exist in is a good thing.

If you react with hostility to the news of this ongoing research then it says quite a lot about you as an individual. It says that you’re closed minded and that you do not want people providing alternative and rational explanations for the things that you are convinced are paranormal in origin.

I pointed out a few issues with the research myself in my original blog post, like the fact that people have been quick to use the ongoing research to dismiss a whole range of paranormal experiences a priori when actually if a link is established this will only indicate a new cause for a small number of experiences.  This doesn’t mean the research isn’t a good thing and I look forward to the conclusion when it is presented.

Those people who asked “how does this explain EVP and EMF fluctuations?” should know that it doesn’t. However we do already have explanations for those things that show, unequivocally that they are not paranormal in origin and yet such people ignore those too so I’m sure there’s no chance they’ll pay attention to this research once it is concluded too because they are simply psuedo-scienctific ghost hunters who are willing to believe anything other than the factual truth.

Establishing the cause for paranormal phenomena is what paranormal research is at its very core, and anyone involved in ghost research that doesn’t like that approach ought to pack up their EMF meters, Ghost-box and Dowsing rods and go home.

Further Reading

The Rational Causes Of Electronic Voice Phenomena
A Rational Look At The Ghost-Box
Why Personal Experiences Aren’t Evidence Of Ghosts


“Feel like a Mulder, Question like a Scully”

mulder and scully

I’ve written before about the moment on a case investigation when something happens and you’re not quite sure what is going on and it’s equal parts exciting and equal parts intriguing. I think that’s the closest you can get to feeling like Mulder and Scully on one of their more adventurous cases.

Sure, it might end up to be foxes in the garden outside of the property sounding a bit like a baby crying and not an actual ghostly baby crying in the next room (that happened) and you might not end up chasing something mysteriously and scary as the perfect duo from The X-Files often do, but it’s still cool. And in that moment it’s easy to see how simple it would be to convince yourself (and, in turn, convince others) that what you are hearing is paranormal and mysterious. To add that kick of spooky flavour to your reality.

But you mustn’t.

Twitter user @fowkc brought the above tweet from @realscientists to my attention this morning and lo! a new mantra has been born.

Feel like Mulder, but question like Scully.

I’m a non-believer but I still love a good mystery. And I love investigating these mysteries in a way that hopefully reveals what’s going on. It’s easy to fall into the pattern of using the facts (“it’s wasn’t a ghost, it was carbon monoxide”, “it wasn’t Nessie, it was driftwood”, “she isn’t psychic, she’s using cold reading techniques”) to punish those who dared to believe something paranormal, but that isn’t productive.

I love the Loch-Ness Monster legend, and that of it’s younger cousin Bownessie and I am an advocate of being open-minded yet rational in the research and study of weird experiences that people have. I try to champion skeptical inquiry in my research, and you should too! This is why I still investigate weird stuff despite not believing in the paranormal, it’s why I am a member of the recently re-established Fairy Investigation Society, and it’s why I will always have time for people who want to talk about the weird stuff they’ve experienced.

Because it’s important to Feel like Mulder, but question like Scully.

but don’t use a gun ‘cos that’s dangerous, and try not to chase scary things on your own and don’t go getting arrested or anything. Gawd. 

Book Review: Abominable Science

abominable scienceAbominable Science! authored by Daniel Loxton and Donald Prothero is one of those books that comes along and makes the world a better place. A rare treat that you didn’t know you needed until you had it in your hands.

The combination of good research, good references and an honest, open-minded yet critical outlook turns Abominable Science! into a must-have for anybody with a passing interest in monsters and strange creatures. There is no doubt in my mind that this book will help people understand how to critically assess claims that they come across and the numerous detailed references mean that you don’t have to take the authors at their word and can explore each subject further for yourself.

There is still a general lack of respect for skeptical inquiry within paranormal research, including ghost investigations, monster investigations and more. Headline stories in the media about monsters are not rare even today in 2015, and a quick flick through the numerous available television channels will reveal shows like Finding Bigfoot or Destination Truth where unconventional and, at times, pseudo-scientific methodologies are championed in the quest to find evidence of legendary monsters. These programmes sacrifice a factual approach in order to provide so-called evidence of that which they hunt for.

A great time, then, for a book like Abominable Science! to be available. This is an engrossing read and it’s a must have for any self-identifying Skeptic, Cryptozoologist or Monster Hunter. There is a lot to learn about Cryptozoology in the modern world and this book is where you’ll find it.

Someone buy Matt Moneymaker a copy quick, and make sure he reads it. Or better yet sack the entire crew of the awful, awful Finding Bigfoot and use the funds to get Loxton and Prothero their own show! Fact is that people who are heavily invested in their belief in these cryptids won’t be convinced by a book, even one as detailed as Abominable Science! but it’s there if they ever decide to change their minds.

If this book had been published fifteen-years earlier I might have read it as I went on my first road trip to Loch Ness, but would it have stolen some of the magic of the experience from 13-year-old me who was fascinated by the weird and wonderful ghost and monster lore?

No. I would have been better for it. Skeptics are often accused of ruining the magic or stealing the fun from fanciful ideas and although this is a charge levelled at this book by some true-believers I don’t think it is an accurate criticism. The book embodies the kind of skepticism that I hope that I champion (even a little bit) in my own approach to paranormal research.

In 2012 I visited Loch Ness again, this time joined by Joe Nickell and we visited the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition, a guided tour that introduces you to the story of the Loch Ness Monster and critically analyses every single aspect of the legend in an educational manner that not only debunks most of the nonsense but also introduces you to the geology, history and ecology of the area. It is so engaging and fascinating that you don’t even realise it is a lesson until you leave with a newly installed sense of the wonder of the scientific approach (how the Centre hasn’t won any awards from skeptic organisations I do not know.) In my opinion Abominable Science! is right up there with the Loch Ness Centre. A wonderful read and a wonderful resource for future generations.

Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero. 2013. Abominable Science! Columbia University Press, New York. Available from the Columbia University Press, on and