On Sally Morgan Warning Her Fans About Scammers

Sally Morgan video

 

British psychic Sally Morgan recently caused a bit of a stir online when she posted a video to her official Facebook page warning fans about people on social media pretending to be her and trying to make money from her fans by scamming them.

Many people on my social media timelines have mocked this because they believe that Sally Morgan is also scamming money from her fans in one way or another, but that’s a debate for another day. In fact, I’ve blogged about Sally Morgan and her claims previously on this blog here if you’re curious.

What many people are missing here is that Sally Morgan is doing the right thing by warning her fans because by doing so she is helping them to know who they are handing their money over to and what services they are purchasing and this is good news. Why? Because it means that they have a huge range of consumer protection legislation and consumer protection services behind them to help them if they decide they’ve been tricked out of their money by Sally Morgan.

Being clear about who you are paying, what you are paying for and why makes you a clever consumer who has options if you’re not happy with what you’ve paid for.

If someone is tricked into handing their bank details over to someone who is pretending to be Sally Morgan it’s quite unlikely that they’re going to be able to trace that person very easily. A police investigation might be successful in returning their money to them eventually but it might not. It’s also a highly traumatic experience.

This is why I think we should applaud psychics (and other odd claim makers) when they warn their customers to be careful consumers and to think twice about who they’re handing their money over to. The alternative is that Sally Morgan knows that people are pretending to be her and scamming money from people and she does nothing about it and nothing to highlight it and that’s just not cool. There would quite rightly be an uproar.

Look – people claiming to be psychics are not going away regardless of how many petitions you launch or how many banners you hold up outside of their shows. People will always believe in psychics and psychics will always be around.

The best thing that people who doubt psychics can do is to ensure that those who believe in psychics know how to spot trickery when it happens and what to do when they spot it because people who believe in psychics do not deserve to be conned out of their money.

There are whole swathes of people within the skeptic community whom I refer to as “anti-psychics”. These are not the people out there raising awareness of how to spot psychic trickery (and sometimes being abused for doing so), but instead those who want to see psychics punished and shamed for what they claim. Or even harmed – the aggression I have seen aimed at people who claim to be psychic has been alarming at times.

These “anti-psychics” think that people who believe in psychics must be thick and that because they’re thick they deserve to have their money stolen through dishonest practices. ‘You reap what you sow’ they’ll say. ‘Should have listened to us’ they’ll warn, but ultimately they do nothing to solve the issues that those who want to visit psychics face.

People believe in psychics for a whole range of reasons, many of which are complex and personal and it’s their choice what they spend their money on. If we want to help we can help raise awareness of how to be a smart consumer and how to spot psychic fraud if you see it. On this occasion Sally Morgan helped us achieve that aim because people pretending to be famous psychics are psychic con artists themselves. Nice one, Sally. 👍

On thinking outside of the box: Beware the “real or app?” trap

toowoomba composit

In June 2012 a ghost photo taken by a Cheltenham resident in their home started to go viral. It contained the ghost of a baby that had died in the house years before and the owner of the phone it was taken on was sure it was paranormal evidence. It wasn’t. It had been created on a smartphone app designed to create fake ghost photos by inserting ghostly characters into existing photographs.

The phone owner in question hadn’t known this and the fake photo had been created by someone else to prank them and they hadn’t realised the truth before going to the media. I wrote about this particular case when I became involved in it.

Smartphone apps have made it easier than ever before to fake ghost photos (not that is has ever been particularly difficult) that look realistic to an untrained eye – but know what you’re looking for and it’s easy to spot a smartphone app for what it is. There are a whole range of ghosts and oddities that can be added to a photo by an ever-growing range of ghost photo apps. Visit any paranormal blog and you’ll probably find people talking about these apps and attributing photos to them.

Today I saw someone ask their Twitter followers if a photo was ‘real or an app?‘ as though these are the only two possible explanations. The photo in question looked as though it could actually be someone walking into a photograph being taken on a slow exposure setting which can often turn people translucent.

People must be careful to not just dismiss photographs as ghost app creations a priori, but worryingly I’ve seen an increasing number of people doing exactly this. For example, a recent news story from the UK featured some sort of face being photographed in the window of an old hospital and people started speculating on social media that it was just created using an app – but the truth was that it was a Halloween mask placed in the window to spook people passing by. 

One must rule out all possible explanations until it isn’t possible to continue to do so. To just speculate about what could have caused a photo without any evidence on which to base your suggestion is find so long as you don’t pretend that you’re doing something altogether different.

This isn’t me saying that people shouldn’t question things or voice their thoughts and opinions about ghost photos and other forms of evidence – I often do just that on this blog and on The Spooktator podcast but these are different forms of analysis than actual investigation.

I conduct many on-site investigations too where possible, and these have always provided better results than sitting at my computer pondering and googling. There are forms of investigation where site visits are not required – footage replications for example, and audio analysis. But all too often people claiming to be skeptical investigators fall short of the actual investigating. They continually reach conclusions without stepping away from their computers, speaking to the people involved, or moving past the suspicion that every piece of evidence of ghosts is the result of ill intent on the part of the person who has shared it, and this approach bores me beyond comprehension.

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…

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

The Loch Ness Monster In Windermere? It’s More Complicated Than That…

Many people don’t know that Windermere has a lake monster “mystery” all of its own. I’ve been investigating Bownessie for years and even took CSIcop investigator Joe Nickell there for a few days in 2012 to get his thoughts on the situation surrounding the alleged beast of Bowness, Windermere. You can read about the investigation and also about my thoughts on the mystery as whole and you can even listen to me on the awesome Monster Talk podcast discussing Bownessie too, but in summary it’s fair to say that it is unlikely that there is anything weird swimming in the waters of Windermere.

There are already some pretty big species of fish in those waters that belong there and it is thought that it is these that are being seen and mistaken for a monster by people who have read about Bownessie in the press. Some of the eyewitness experiences are compelling and, having spoken to numerous people involved in the mystery, I have no reason to believe that everything witnessed was made up. I’m just not convinced that those experiences were caused by some unknown creature… and it might surprise some to know what not everyone who has had a strange encounter in those waters is completely bought by the idea that it was a monster they saw or felt… just “something” that they couldn’t necessarily explain.

As is often the case with these sorts of subjects, it is often the media that put the paranormal spin on things and the reports of eyewitnesses are taken out of context for sensational headlines.

…and then you get something like this

Is this the Loch Ness Monster 150 miles from home?

No. It isn’t. It is a fake photo, but I didn’t need to tell anyone that.

I don’t know the reasons behind this photo. Perhaps it is just a laugh, perhaps it is part of a publicity drive? Perhaps it is just attention seeking from people who know that anything Scotland related will currently get coverage because of the independence referendum gripping the United Kingdom right now?

I’m not going to research the background of this photo because it’s a waste of my time, but my few initial observations are this:

– no wake in the water other than that caused naturally by the breeze (as seen in the foreground of the photo)
– the “reflection” is not disturbed or rippled like the water it is reflected in
– this “creature” is in shallow water at the side of the lake, throwing its huge body out of proportion
– The ecology of Windermere is observed very closely by the Centre of Ecology & Hydrology. They’d know if this was in that water.