Jayne Harris believes that she has caught on camera the moment an allegedly haunted puppet moves on its own. The previous owner of the puppet claimed the spirit attached to it tried to harm him which is why Harris has been observing the puppet for the last three months in her usually-disused basement with a camcorder. After observing the footage in the news reports I read about this there were several questions that came to my mind. Could it be fraud via the use of wires or magnets? Could it just be falling over as things often do? Why was it only making headlines now, months after being filmed?
Rather than speculate about the motives of those involved I decided to try and contact Harris directly with my questions. Harris kindly agreed to me sharing our conversation here.
Me: As you probably know most people think that has been staged and I wondered if you might answer a few questions about it?
Jayne: Of course. I’m aware that no evidence will ever be enough to convince some people, however in sharing my footage I’m not trying to convince anyone. Believers believe, skeptics don’t. I know how long I had the goosebumps on the morning on 13th July when I reviewed the footage! Of course I’d be happy to talk about it.
Me: I am a paranormal researcher but don’t believe in the paranormal. I consider myself to have an open mind but always try to rule out possible causes for things like this. I think the most obvious cause here is fraud which I know you’ve denied. Was there anybody else that had access to the puppet? Oh gosh, that sounded wrong. What I meant was how certain can you be that nobody else tampered with it?
Jayne: I’ll explain something. I have been studying the field of Spirit Attachment for 17 years. In that time I’ve captured orbs (which I discount as I personally do not believe them to be connected to anything paranormal), shadows… the usual. However, at no point have I found anything (other than the 2 occasions in 2004 when I witnessed an apparition) to completely wipe doubt from my mind. Although not for want of trying. This footage was taken using a standard (pretty old!) Sony camcorder set to night vision. We leave the camera running as part of our investigations for up to 3 hours each night while we have a specific object under study. We use controlled conditions as suggested by ASSAP of which I’m a member. Our study area is on the basement as that is the only place in our home where we can keep conditions controlled.
I frequently set up trigger object experiments too with the use of motion detection. Even I wasn’t present at the time of the recording. We set up at 11.30pm and the tape runs using long play until roughly 3am. The Daily Mail unfortunately cropped the footage to exclude the time long and date. It was taken at 2.05am. As you can imagine reviewing up to 3 hours of night vision footage is quite a task. Usually I’m listening out for sounds, or watching for shadows/something around the object. What I did not expect was to see the object itself moving. Although I have always believed in some way that spirits not only exist but can manipulate physical objects.
Me: So do you believe this is a ghost moving the puppet?
Jayne: I believe in both residual and intelligent hauntings. I believe energy can be absorbed by objects as it can by buildings. The case of the puppet I believe is not residual. After seeing the footage and speaking at length with its previous owner I believe there is a spirit around it/associated to it/haunting it (choice of words varies from person to person!) I believe ghosts are residual energy being replayed. Unaware of the living. I believe spirits are something different and in this case unless someone can prove to me categorically that I’m wrong, I believe we have a spirit making themselves known.
Me: What do you think about the suggestion that perhaps it just moved due to gravity – like, it wasn’t quite balanced right and just toppled over on itself? I just wonder how much context plays a part here. If you see what I mean.
Jayne: As for gravity, personally I discount it. Gravity could make something fall but it couldn’t lift, pause and then slowly lower before dropping. I watched that footage over 30 times on the day I first saw it and tried every possible explanation. I even examined the cabinet incase a mouse had got in! I have tried to recreate it since bit can’t. We’ve created vibrations in the rooms above by walking heavily, moving furniture etc. Believe me I don’t share my evidence lightly. I have to be sure. I know I leave myself open to criticism but who doesn’t. My view is that those with an interest in and some knowledge of the paranormal will feel it worth seeing.
Me: I’m just watching it now, was the cross originally on the puppet?
Jayne: Yes its the wooden operating cross that controls the puppet. It connects the strings to the puppet via metal loops
Me: is there a copy of the video that hasn’t been edited by the press?
Jayne: I originally uploaded it to youtube (which is how the journalist found it) that shows the footage. As part of our research we have various psychic mediums study any objects we investigate (although of course the opinion of psychics can be open to interpretation). It all helps us build a picture. In this line of work a good 90% of objects we study are found to have no notable activity or signs of anything paranormal.
A/N: Here is the original video
Me: I’ve just watched the video again and I notice that just before the cross falls there’s a “tink” noise, do you recognise that noise? Like. literally before the cross falls into the glass?
Jayne: There is yes. We think it may be the other side of the operating cross touching the back of the cabinet before the fall. Or possibly one of the puppets porcelain feet/hands.
Me: have you been able to recreate the noise?
Jayne: We got a similar sound on a couple of occasions more so when the back of the cross caught the back of the cabinet
Me: Do you have that on tape? The recreations?
Jayne: We don’t film our attempts to recreate activity or replicate environments no. It’s part of what we do day to day.
Me: what the control conditions are that you use?
Jayne: by controlled, I mean that we look to minimise external interference when conducting experiments, and if we gather any data i.e. the video footage, we try to recreate the exact same environment for future experiments to see if we get the same responses or results. In all in the name of accurate data collection (notoriously difficult in the paranormal field!) We use the basement as it in unused for any other purpose, so no one goes there unless they are checking for results. We measure the temperature of the area at the beginning of each session, set up camera in the exact same position (using makers on the floor, shelves etc) and do as much as we can to ensure everything remains untouched.
Me: Oh, you said it was controls suggested by ASSAP?
Jayne: Controlled conditions also means not relying on witness testimonies too heavily as these are obviously open to interpretation and not measurable.
Me: do you not think the videos are open to interpretation too?
Jayne: Oh of course, as is anything, but it’s far closer to evidence than me simply telling you I saw the puppet move don’t you think.
Me: Sure, but I think it still requires a reliance on your word that this is what we’re seeing in the video. I think a lot of people will wonder why the lights weren’t on, why you didn’t also film from other angles, or why you didn’t film the replications.
Jayne: yes of course, as do most things. Unless someone experiences something for themselves, they will never believe
Me: Even experiencing things for yourself is open to interpretation and biases though? And you didn’t experience this for yourself…?
Jayne: Exactly, no one will ever have cast iron guaranteed proof of the afterlife, thats a fact. At the end of the day I’m not looking to convince anyone, I know what I captured and in sharing it with others I am sharing what I consider to be my best capture to date. People can take it however they see fit. I respect and appreciate the thoughts and opinions of any who approaches it in a mature way.
Jayne: I think when you are approached by the media, you have to accept that there will be those out there who think you’ve agree to an article because you have an ulterior motive. I suppose that happens a lot. [A/N: yes, it does]. I’m not looking convince anyone as I say, but I know there are genuine paranormal enthusiasts out there who will be as excited as I am by this.
Edit (14.08.2015): I have summarised my thoughts on this in a reply to a comment left below. Click here to go directly to my response.