A Psychic Died

fry

When Colin Fry died there was a huge rise in traffic to my blog because of a post I had written in the past criticising him for seeming to take advantage of the misfortune of a man who had fallen victim to a psychic mail scam. I got a number of messages telling me that what I had written was disrespectful as Fry had just died despite the fact that the piece is both informed and was written prior to his death or his cancer diagnosis. This led me to update the post to explain this and yet people continued to send their disapproval my way.

It’s sad that Colin Fry died aged 53 of terminal cancer. Cancer sucks, as does nicotine addiction and 53 is far too young to die but this doesn’t detract from the fact that Fry made dubious claims about having supernatural abilities and was once caught cheating at a seance – behaviour that justified skepticism of his claims. That stuff happened so why should we pretend it didn’t?

I wrote something similar when Fred Phelps popped his clogs in a post titled De mortuis nihil nisi bonumIf to respect the dead you have to ignore or censor whole parts of their existence then quite frankly you’re not being very respectful, are you? Fry, of course, was nothing like Phelps and I’m not suggesting he was… in fact Fry was gay and was critical of Sally Morgan’s husband when his homophobic behaviour was caught on camera.

‘I deplore all forms of prejudice, and of course I have personal reasons for particularly detesting any form of homophobia. Every one is welcome to attend my shows of any race, gender , religion or sexual orientation, even skeptics!’ – Colin Fry

I may be misguided but I always thought of Fry as the last of the old-school spiritualist mediums because he still worked with the Spiritualists National Union (SNU) and was even an SNU registered minister whereas the SNU tend to view other high-profile stage psychics in an unfavourable light. This, of course, doesn’t detract from the fact that there were claims made and behaviours observed that brought doubt to the validity of what Colin Fry was claiming.

To pretend that is not deserving of such criticism does the man a disservice and for fans to pretend that Colin Fry was better than or above criticisms levelled at him in life and death is purely a selfish move. He acknowledged and, to a point, welcomed the skepticism people held of his claims and I think he’d welcome it after his death too.

The Police Should Use Psychics? Let’s All Freak Out!

calm down slide

The Telegraph have reported that ‘Psychic help finding missing people should not be ruled out, police officers told’

‘What in the Sam Hell is this bullshit from the UK College of Policing?’ asks Doubtful News, ‘Where do they get the foundation? Taxpayers may not be pleased.’

Firstly, shut up Doubtful News. Seriously.

This is not the College of Policing saying that psychics are real or that psychic insight is a valid form of investigation to be used in missing persons cases. They’re actually just holding a consultation about investigation practices in missing persons cases to make sure they are doing the right things with their resources. It runs until October. As a UK tax payer I am pleased that such consultations happen.

In the consultation documentation the College of Policing states ‘High-profile missing person investigations nearly always attract the interest of psychics and others, such as witches and clairvoyants, stating that they possess extrasensory perception. Any information received from psychics should be evaluated in the context of the case, and should never become a distraction to the overall investigation and search strategy unless it can be verified. These contacts usually come from well-intentioned people, but the motive of the individual should always be ascertained, especially where financial gain is included. The person’s methods should be asked for, including the circumstances in which they received the information and any accredited successes.

This is what some skeptics are getting their knickers in a twist about. The fact is though that self-proclaimed psychics have been approaching the police with tips about crimes for a very, very long time and the police, obviously, need to have a procedure in place to deal with this that doesn’t compromise the resources in the investigation but also doesn’t compromise the outcome investigation itself either positively or negatively. There have been several concerning incidents in the past where psychics have been listened to and the investigation has been derailed as a result. We’re quick to wag our fingers disapprovingly at the police for listening to psychics… but when they hold a consultation- the outcome of which will not be known until after October, by the way -about best practice in this sort of situation we wag our fingers in disapproval again.

How about, instead, taking part in the damn consultation? You can find their current information on the handling of psychics (and other practices) tips here and you can download the consultation form here to send back to them.

Be proactive and not reactive.

Ghost Geek Video Series: Ask Me Anything

Questions

It seems like it was a long time ago that a lot of lovely people (some of whom I’ve never met) supported to my campaign to fund an online video series and yet it wasn’t that long ago at all. After a bit of drama with an online retailer over a piece of equipment I had purchased I now have all of the equipment on my wish list meaning that the video production can begin.

This weekend those people who donated enough to the campaign will take part in the online How To Bust Ghosts workshop with yours truly and guests Blake Smith, Matthew Baxter and Bryan Bonner which I am really looking forward to. The idea in my mind has always been that once the workshop was completed the video series could commence. It is important to me that those who helped make the video series a reality get their rewards first.

With that in mind, if you do not live in the UK and you were supposed to get a Ghost Geek badge… well… I just found your badges in an envelope in my desk drawer with a note saying ‘don’t forget to post these’. I am sorry. They will be with you soon (unless I put them in another drawer that is.)

Myself and some of my friends are working on a special video project for the channel but this will be produced alongside regular videos and I think it makes sense for the first video of the series to be a sort of introduction video and this is where you can help. I’d really love to start with a question & answer session on video so that those who are familiar with my work can find out the answer to their questions while also helping me introduce myself to a new audience too. So, with that in mind, why not pop a question in the form below?

It can be about anything I’ve blogged about, spoken about or anything (appropriate) about me. I’ve already asked a few people for questions and I have ‘what is the scariest real life report you received?‘, ‘what is your favourite ghost story?‘ and ‘do you want ghosts to be real?‘ and I intend to answer these in the video. So, get your thinking caps on and ask away. I can’t guarentee I’ll answer all questions but I’ll try.

A Closer Look At The Alternative Census Stats On Ghosts

alternative census slide

Regular readers may recall that I recently bought Chat It’s Fate magazine in which I found a fabricated ghost photograph. I am now going to admit that I also bought the September 2015 issue of Spirit and Destiny magazine. I don’t know why, but I did. Just accept it, okay?

There was one story in the news section that caught my eye in particular as it claimed that ‘one in five people in the UK say they’ve seen a ghost, according to a survey by Rightmove, which also found that nine per cent of us claim to have seen a UFO.’

I am always interested in studies of public attitudes towards the paranormal and paranormal belief and I’ve previously written about why some studies that claimed “more people believe in the paranormal” don’t necessarily show that result when you look at the data and compare it to other studies, so naturally I wanted to know more. Spirit and Destiny went on to report ‘Other revelations include Torquay in Devon being the hotspot of ghostly encounters, where more than 25 per cent say they’ve seek something spooky. For UFO sightings, Falkirk in Scotland is the place to be, with 20 per cent of its residents saying they’ve seen something inexplicable in the sky. But if you want a UFO and ghost double whammy, then head up north to Wigan. The town in Greater Manchester had the third highest number of UFO sightings (16.8 per cent) and the third highest number of ghost-spottings (24.6 per cent)’

Firstly, who wouldn’t want a UFO and ghost double whammy? In for a penny, and all that… but to be serious for a moment, the claims sound fantastic but they don’t tell us very much. How many people in Torquay were interviewed? It can’t have been the whole population so what is 25% actually a quarter of? If it’s 10,000 people then cool, but if it’s just 200 people then… not so impressive.

With this in mind I looked into this further and found that the survey was actually part of Rightmove’s Alternative Census in which they asked 300,000 of their members questions about a variety of subjects including dating habits, how many hours they sleep, whether they prefer cats or dogs, current work habits, if they are happy in their relationship, how many close friends they have, nude neighbour sightings (really), UFO and ghost sightings and more.

I really wanted to know more about the numbers involved in these claims and so I contacted Rightmove directly first over the phone and then on Twitter. They would not share the data with me when asked despite claiming elsewhere that the survey was completely anonymous.

I learned very quickly that Rightmove doesn’t care about my confusion which saddens me. I am but a mere ghost geek looking for ghost stats and I have been denied.

Naturally this prompted me to do some digging around online and I discovered this gem of a report on the Alternative Census by Property Industry Eye in which they quoted a landlord who was not too happy with how unprofessional these questions made Rightmove look. In response to this ‘a spokesperson from Rightmove told Eye: “It’s for some consumer PR we’re planning for the future. We decided to come up with loads of questions to see which ones give the most interesting results for stories.’ That is known as cherry picking data. Tut, tut.

The explanation Eye got is a little different that the introduction to the project given in the press release where Abiola Oni says ‘We created the Alternative Census as we wanted to find out more about the unusual goings on in local neighbourhoods, alongside the more typical things you might be interested in before moving there. Good transport links and high achieving schools are often the first things people think about, but in The Alternative Census we were able to get an entirely new perspective about the towns and cities people call home.’ Indeed, there is no mention of consumer PR here at all.

The fact is that talk of ghosts and UFOs is great for PR because you don’t have to substantiate your claims but this is just sloppy data handling. Had more people given interesting answers about naked neighbours we would probably see more reports on that… oh wait.  To make it even worse Rightmove haven’t even tried to deny that this s a big fat PR stunt. Sorry Torquay, but you’re probably not the most haunted place in the UK. Sorry Rightmove, but your Alternative Census is full of shit. 25% of people said so.

Woman Catches Grey Lady Of Longleat House On Camera… Sort Of…

new longleat image

Don’t ask why but I recently felt compelled to pick up the September 2015 issue of Chat It’s Fate magazine as I wandered through my local supermarket. It’s the magazine for the type of person that I’m not – people who are trying to be at one with themselves and trying to aligning their chakras while cleansing their houses and colons of negative energy. It was full of the usual waffle about miracles, too-good-to-be-coincidences coincidences and spiritual awakenings but scattered throughout were pages on which regular readers could send letters and photos in and, if they were lucky (ha) they might be chosen as letter of the month, pic of the month or spooky photo of the month for which there is a monetary award.

longleat gray lady hoax

Imagine my complete lack of surprise to discover that the spooky photo of the month for September 2015 was a staged ghost photo. According to Diana Barrett who sent it into the magazine on behalf of “a friend” said “friend” has ‘recently visited Longleat Safari and Adventure park in Wiltshire and took some photos in Longleat House. She didn’t notice anything strange until she looked at the pics later. The manor is allegedly haunted by a Grey Lady – and if you look between the two portraits, there she is, clear as day.’

grey lady close up

Diana is right, her “friend” did capture the ghost of the Grey Lady on camera… that is, the projection of the Grey Lady. I live in Wiltshire and I love Longleat House and I would visit the Safari Park often throughout my childhood. Longleat House embrace their gruesome ghost legends and every October host a Halloween festival which includes a ghost walk in the house which I can thoroughly recommend after attending last year. Not only that but in the main hall- where this photo was taken -they have a projection of the Grey Lady which appears in front of a set of wooden doors between two portraits, looks around the hall as though searching for somebody (which is part of her legend), and then she vanishes only to reappear a few moments later. Down in the creepy cellars of the house you might witness the disembodied shadow of a body tumbling down a servants staircase only to run off into the cellars – a hologram of the ghost said to linger in that area of the house. It’s all quite fun, really.

When I contacted the Longleat House media team they confirmed that the projection of the Grey Lady of Longleat was played throughout the year and that this wasn’t the first time that someone has tried to sell such a photo to the press. Hilarious then that the publication to fall for it is Chat It’s Fate and that not only did they publish the photo, they paid the reader for the privilege of doing so.

It’s almost as though it was destined to be…