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.

Whistable… not so haunted.

thumb whitstable

Turns out that Whitstable might not be so haunted after all (who knew) and that all the recent ghost related news stories coming out of there were for a Channel 4 television show called ‘The Happenings’. I just saw the advert for it on television and they used the High Quality version of the floating teabag box CCTV ghost footage (which wasn’t available to the general public) and they also showed the Amanda Byram photograph too.

The Byram fake photo
The Byram fake photo

Also worth noting is that the name of the original video on Youtube about the teabag box ghost has been changed. It is now called ‘Whitstable paranormal activity is first glimpse of The Happenings’. I had my suspicions that we were being fooled by the same person or people when this article about Amanda Byram mentioned a TV Producer but I simply didn’t have the time to research any further.

Ho hum. The series will be available via the 4OD service if you want to watch it. What is the point in this? I guess it might be an attempt to get people to question everything they encounter, but I’m not so sure that tricking people is the best way to do this. Entertaining though, I guess…

I AM ALL CONFLICTED! WAAAH!

The latest Beast of Trowbridge photo is a Hoax

thumb trow cat
Beast of Trowbridge?
The latest photo of the Beast of Trowbridge

Some of my fellow Wiltshire residents have been very, very naughty people and I am not amused. The Wiltshire Times recently broke the story that the legendary Beast of Trowbridge had recently been spotted in Winsley by a couple who were out walking. The beast is thought to be some type of a big cat – a puma or panther. It has been seen in various areas in and around Trowbridge, the county town of Wiltshire, over a number of years and is quite an interesting social phenomenon if nothing else. I can remember the early reports of the Beast that originated from the village of Hilperton (where I grew up) that sits on the outskirts of Trowbridge. I grew up having bad dreams about the beast being on the prowl nearby, and this is why I am always interested when the legend raises its head each time.

The Wiltshire Times story about the most recent sighting of the Beast reports

A Winsley couple had quite a shock when they encountered the infamous beast of Trowbridge on Saturday morning. Herbert and Doreen Smith were walking in Murhill Woods, at around 10.30am, when they spotted the big black cat.

Down the years, the creature, which has been described as being a puma or a panther, has been spotted in Trowbridge, Staverton and Westbury Leigh amongst others places. Mr Smith, 71, who lives in Winsley, said: “Our first impression was sheer astonishment, we really could not believe our eyes at what we were seeing. The animal was eating what we believe it had just caught.

Winsley is very close to where I live and even closer to where I work, so I was extremely interested in this sighting. The photo that was attached to the story (as seen at the top of this post) shows a dark coloured animal with a long curved tail, it’s head bent towards the ground as though it is eating or sniffing something, just as Mr Smith reported. However, my initial thoughts were that this was some sort of dog – a German or Belgian Shepherd perhaps, that had been misidentified. I haven’t been able to really look into this though because I have been busy preparing for a talk I am delivering in Stockholm next week.

However, thanks to the detective work of John Nuttall of the Lancashire Anomalous Phenomena Investigation Society (LAPIS) I don’t have to do any digging because he has cracked this case wide open.

The photograph wasn’t even taken in Winsley… hell, it wasn’t even taken in the United Kingdom and is, in fact. a still from a trail cam set up in Lapeer County, Michigan to try and observe Cougars in the wild there. It would seem that Herbert and Doreen Smith have saved a copy of this photo, added a fake date stamp to it, and made up a back story to go along with it.

Original source of the photo
Gee. That looks familiar…

I don’t know if Mr & Mrs Smith even exist, I don’t know the details of how they reported this to The Wiltshire Times, and I don’t know the motivations behind hoaxing such a sighting – for a laugh, perhaps? Or maybe just because they could? Either way, it’s a pretty crap thing to do. I will chase this up with The Wiltshire Times on Monday morning to see if they will run a follow up story on this hoax.

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