Thoughts on Most Haunted Live Halloween 2015

yvette

During the Most Haunted Live broadcast on Halloween night 2015 Karl Beattie was allegedly dragged up some stairs by an unseen entity which strangled him. This was caught on camera and some people have noticed that there seems to be a rope around his waist. In response to the accusations of trickery that this rope indicates both Karl Beattie and his wife Yvette Fielding say that the rope is actually just a camera cable.

Skeptics doubt it, fans and believers think it’s true…

…but who actually gives a shit?

Seriously. Who gives a flying fuck? Running around declaring Most Haunted to be fake… well done, clever clogs! Of course it’s not to be trusted… it’s television!

I watched the entire show last night while trying to play along with a drinking game and it was shoddy, over-dramatic, hilarious, entertaining… but it was nowhere near as entertaining as watching people react to the show on Facebook and Twitter. Some people were annoyed that “true ghost hunters” were being shown in a bad light. Other people were annoyed that such nonsense should be allowed to be broadcast…

…and yes, the Satanic chants were a bit over the fucking top and ethically questionable – but just as questionable as the ethics of any of your bog standard ghost hunting groups across the country. Sure, there was no scientific credibility to any of the claims being made on the show but, again, the same can be said of 99% of the people who call themselves paranormal researchers. Yet the mistake people are making when they moan about Most Haunted is to treat the show as comparable with real-life paranormal research.

Most Haunted is a television show that courts controversy – it wants to be loved and hated in equal parts and it succeeds – it always has. It plays up to expectations, it ticks boxes, it gets the viewing figures. It does its job.

Amateur paranormal researchers on the other hand want to be respected as researchers when they’re not deserving of respect, and what they do on their ghost hunts is hugely unethical, completely unscientific… and they don’t even have the excuse of being producers of an entertainment TV show to hide behind! If you’re a ghost hunter who feels that Most Haunted is to blame for making paranormal researchers look back I suggest you have a hard look in the mirror because you’re doing a good enough job of that yourselves. Get a fucking grip.

I’ll be talking about this and more on the first ever episode of The Spooktator vodcast/podcast coming to you live from Youtube on Wednesday. I’ll be joined by Paul Gannon, Alistair Coleman and Mike Gage – details can be found here.

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!”

Psychic Sally Fans: Self Preservation At A Cost

sally morgan photo

I used to wholeheartedly believe that people could speak to the dead. These days I’m not so convinced, but even as a believer I wasn’t so blinded by my faith in psychics and mediums that I couldn’t spot when I was being purposefully deceived. In fact, it was Derek Acorah’s staged possession by a made up ghost called Kreed Kafer- an anagram of Derek Faker -on the TV show ‘Most Haunted’ that led me to the path of skepticism.

I worked with various psychics and mediums on paranormal investigations for years after the Kreed Kafer incident and although I often accepted their claims about hauntings at face value I was often doubtful of their abilities and they all did things that led me further down the path of skepticism until I eventually realised that enough was enough when it came to fooling myself. For example, on one investigation a psychic “healed” my “spiritually induced” headache and detected problems with my shoulders and teeth while doing so… but conveniently forgot to mention the potentially deadly and at-that-stage-undiscovered tumour growing in my skull that was causing the pain. Another psychic I worked with only ever communicated with ghosts from WW1 and WW2 or ghosts that were called Charlie or Eliza, and another once threw me across a room because I said a room didn’t feel sinister as she has insisted.

I believed in psychics and my belief in psychics and an afterlife was very important to me. Yet, despite the cognitive dissonance involved, I refused to allow myself to continue to be fooled by these people once they had showed that they probably didn’t have the abilities they claimed. I would not excuse their behaviour and I would not condone it for the sake of feeling comforted. This is why I find it very disheartening to watch fans of self-proclaimed psychic Sally Morgan continue to support her and her team after yet more controversy has come to light.

The recent release of footage that shows her husband and tour manager, John Morgan, threatening a man- Mark Tilbrook -leafleting outside of one of her shows, and making homophobic and racist remarks about high profile skeptics is just more damning material added to a list of occurrences that should make even the most faithful believer in psychics skeptical.

Watching the footage sickens me, yet fans of Sally Morgan have excused the behaviour by claiming John Morgan was protecting his wife and acting out of character. I personally find it difficult to accept these excuses considering that Mark Tilbrook is not the only person to have ever leafleted Sally Morgan shows, he didn’t impose a threat to Sally Morgan, he doesn’t focus purely on Sally Morgan, and it is alleged by other leaflet distributors that John Morgan and co. have behaved like this on numerous occasions before.

When people make excuses for this sort of behaviour what they’re actually doing is acting in their own best interests. They are convincing themselves that the person they have put their faith in- Sally Morgan -is not dodgy in any way and that the beliefs they have invested in are not tainted by any of this controversy. It is difficult to accept that a psychic you so strongly believe in has fooled you into thinking they are psychic and are a good, caring person… but at what point to do you accept that you’re wrong?

May 2007 – deletes claims re: working with the police  [Source]
Sep 2007 – claims re: working with Robert DeNiro and Bob Geldof are denied [Source]
Sep 2007
– falsely claims to have never met Brian Dowling prior to a “celebrity reading” [Source]
Sep 2011 – accused of cheating during a show at the Grand Canal Theatre, Dublin [Source]
Sep 2011 – denies using an earpiece in shows. Footage emerges that proves this is not entirely true.

Jan 2012 – takes action against the DailyMail for defamation [Source]
Feb 2012 – communicates with spirit that is a TV character [Source]
Mar 2012 – Fails to successfully cold-read Richard Bacon on BBC Radio 5 Live

Oct 2012 – Refuses to have abilities tested by Professor  by Chris French [Source]
Jun 2013 – Wins legal case but still refuses to provide evidence of her abilities [Source]
Mar 2014 – communicates with spirit of a woman who is actually still alive AND in the audience [Source]
Oct 2014 – Video of John Morgan intimidating critics leaked [Source]

If I was a Sally Morgan fan I would look at this list and ask myself at what point I would accept that perhaps not all is what it seems with this self-proclaimed psychic. Sure, she may get some “dazzle shots”-accurate hits that seem too good to be guesses -but when you put the good hits up against all of the fails it really doesn’t weigh up. This is especially true when you consider the fact that the above list contains only those fails that have been made public.

How many such fails have happened in her hundreds of shows that have never been made public? I’m willing to bet that it’s quite a few.

There is no scientific evidence to support the claim that Sally Morgan is able to communicate with spirits and she continues to refuse to have her abilities tested. To continue to cherry-pick only the positives and ignore the overwhelming amount of negatives that stack up against Sally Morgan, and to continue to insist that she is psychic is extremely dishonest of her fans even if they do sincerely believe that humans can communicate with the dead…

…but to excuse homophobic slurs and intimidating threats is a new low. I guess that to some people the idea that they might be wrong is too scary to admit, but you don’t have to believe that Sally Morgan is legit to still believe that there is an afterlife. To do so is self preservation at the cost of your intellectual honesty.

Enough with all of these Weight Loss Scams!

THUMB WEIGHT

Every day I seem to be bombarded with adverts that tell me how easily I can lose weight if I use certain ‘miracle’ products’, or how I could lower my chances of cancer or other illnesses by taking certain supplements or eating certain foods. These adverts and claims are especially prevalent on Facebook – especially in those localised ‘For Sale, Free or Wanted’ groups that have popped up everywhere. These groups can be quite scam ridden anyway, and you should always be wary when buying anything from them. Similar adverts can also be found on Amazon, in magazines, via online advertising on numerous websites, in salons and spas, and on the high street too.

I’m sure you’ve seen such adverts; ‘Buy our tablets and lose 10lb’s in two weeks‘, ‘Young mothers health discovery that has the experts worried‘, ‘use these body wraps and drop a dress size in days!’, ‘One food trick they doctors don’t want you to know about’, ‘Try our shakes and drop 1 stone in just 1 month!’

Fake websites, misleading mailshots and dubious publications attempt to tap into the desire of many insecure women and men by offering a ‘quick fix’ to weight loss and weight related illness, yet if it seems too good to be true it’s because it is often just that.

These often fraudulent companies will use marketing techniques, dodgy science, fake images and false claims about how effective the product is for achieving rapid weight loss. You’ll see airbrushed or faked ‘before and after’ photographs of someone they claim has been successful. They’ll often provide false testimonials from non-existent ‘experts’, a free 14 – 30 day trial, a money-back guarantee or the chance to make money by using their product – which all turns out to be misleading or false.

The current Weight Loss trend is shrinking body wraps which are for sell from most Beauty Salons and Health Spas. You can also buy home kits, which are things I see pushed on the aforementioned ‘For Sale, Free or Wanted’ Facebook pages all the time. 

wrap ad one

The claim is that a process called Lipolysis will see the fat fall off of you, but as Dr Stephen O’Rahilly, the Director of the Metabolic Research Laboratories at Cambridge University pointed out in a Naked Scientists investigation into these products

Lipolysis which is the breakdown of triglycerides and fat to its constituent free fatty acids and glycerol is a highly controlled and sophisticated biochemical process, and no amount of wrapping will induce this to occur in the fat cells.

Secondly, if it didn’t work, it would actually be dangerous. The reason our bodies have all the fat cells was to make a relatively safe place to store excess energy and a place for much energy to be released during times when food is scarce. If we suddenly release a large amount of fat from our fat cells, it would have to go somewhere. We know this is very bad news because patients who, for genetic or other reasons can’t make adequate number of fat cells develop severe metabolic side effects including diabetes, pancreatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, all as a result of this toxic fat going somewhere where it shouldn’t be out of fat cells and into other tissues. So, not only is this idea nonsense, it’s potentially dangerous nonsense.

Some adverts – especially those about so-called ‘Super Foods’ or miracle supplements – often breach the Nutrition & Health Claims (England) Regulations 2007 which states products must not contain ‘Health claims which make reference to the rate or amount of weight loss’, Health claims which make reference to recommendations of individual doctors or health professionals‘, & ‘claims based on new or emerging science and/or proprietary data needs to be accompanied by a dossier of information in support of the claim. European Food Safety Authority will assess this evidence and the Commission will take EFSA’s opinion into account when deciding whether the claim should be authorised.” [source].

The National Health Service ‘Live Well’ website has a great take down of some of the most popular Super Food myths that can be read by clicking here and points out the importance of a balanced diet. They state:

Many of us want to believe that eating a single fruit or vegetable containing a certain antioxidant will zap a diseased cell. The problem is that most research on superfoods tests chemicals and extracts in concentrations not found in the food in its natural state. Garlic, for example, contains a nutrient believed to help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure. But you’d have to eat up to 28 cloves a day to match the doses used in the lab – something no researcher has yet been brave enough to try.

The pills, patches and potions on offer will often do nothing whatsoever, but in some cases could prove dangerous and detrimental to your overall health. It really pays to be switched on when it comes to the claims being made by those people offering weight loss and health products that seem to work instantly or without any effort on your part – or if they claim to only work in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise.

Think you’ve been scammed?

If you give your credit or debit card details to people offering services or products like those mentioned above you run the risk of the fraudster making continuous payment requests to your card provider and continuing the supply of the product, as per their terms and conditions, which are usually hidden and may be difficult to understand. If you have given your card details, you must contact your card provider for advice as a matter of urgency. Don’t feel stupid or embarrassed because you’re not the only person to be tricked, and you’re not the one in the wrong here.

In reality, the best way to lose weight and to keep it off is to eat healthily and exercise moderately and there are very few supplements that will help with this process. If you are considering trying to lose weight or getting into shape it is really advisable that you speak to your doctor before doing so as they will be able to help you work out what does and doesn’t work.

TIP: When I personally assessed my diet and nutrition a few months ago I found the NHS ‘Change4Life’ and ‘Good Food’ websites really useful, making the switch to a more balanced diet easier than I thought it was going to be.

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.