This was originally written for the Project Barnum website. I’m not talking about psychics and mind readers who aren’t gifted like they claim, but those who pretend in the name of entertainment and education and do a better job than those claiming super powers. I think there’s a lot to be gained from engaging with people in fun, entertaining manner, and I think more is probably taken away from performances by magicians and illusionists than from heavy lectures.
I got to know Ash through various skeptical communities that we’re involved with, and I got to hang out with Ash and others over Halloween 2011 in Edinburgh. We investigated a frickin’ haunted castle! Anyway, Ash does a series of talks and shows named ‘How to be a Psychic Conman’, ‘How to predict the future’, and ‘How to talk to the dead’. I’ve seen ‘How to be a Psychic Conman’ for the Birmingham Skeptics in the Pub group and it was a superb, energetic, hilarious and hands on way of teaching people the tricks that psychic tricksters use time and time again. Everyone comes away having learnt something new. Naturally, it was Ash that I went to when I had the idea for Project Barnum (in fact, it was Ash that came up with the name!) Ashley Pryce is a great example of grassroots skepticism in action. Check out his website, and if you can, do see him perform. He does this thing with psychic surgery that makes everyone scream…
Doug is an award winning mind reader. The twist is that he tells you how he does it, and still leaves you speechless. I first “met” Doug when a mutual friend suggested he might be interested in helping Project Barnum educate the public about Psychic Trickery. He was mega supportive and helped us to produce a video teaching people about Barnum statements. In 2012 I had intended to see Doug perform during the run of his show ‘How to Read Minds & Influence People’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival but my plans fell through at the last minute. I watched happily though as he won awards, brilliant reviews, and as his shows sold out night after night. Doug even predicted the results of the 2012 London Olympics live on BBC Scotland, and comedian Al Murray threatened to burn him at the stake! He once performed live on television to an audience of 9.5 million people on a New Years Eve broadcast on BBC one. 9.5 million people! Visit Doug’s website and learn more about his stage shows and corporate entertainment, and if you get the chance, see him live. He knows what you’re thinking.
Ian D Montfort
I used to work in a tiny theatre in the Trowbridge, the county town of Wiltshire. During my time at the venue one of the performers was Tom Binns who performs as the character Ian D Montfort – a psychic. “He’s pretends to be psychic, but actually pretends“, as my boss eloquently put it. At the time I sort of knew how to cold read people, and impressed a few customers with my mad mind skills. I then came clean and taught them a bit about trickery and they bought tickets for the show, which was an added bonus. Ever since then I’ve heard Ian D Montfort mentioned again and again and again. With a whole bunch of five star reviews and a psychic act so blatantly false that it echoes certain stage psychics, Ian D Montfort is a psychic you’d be daft to not see. Check out Ian D Montfort’s website here.
The ‘Psychic and Science‘ stage show stars alleged psychic Derek Acorah, and television “historian” Richard Felix, who both worked on most Haunted together when it was still on air. The shows website entices potential audience members…
Experience amazing and incredible sights and occurrences as the two celebrity Psychic and Scientific investigators explore, explain and decipher the existence of the paranormal.
The website goes on to list the various techniques that will be used, including Psychic readings from Derek on stage, explanations of the realities of ghosts from Richard, Glass Divination, Table Tilting, and Human Pendulum live on stage (with audience participation), A chance for 1 lucky person to conduct a lone vigil in a hunted part of the location, 10 audience members will take part in a seance with Derek in a haunted location, Q & A session with Derek and Richard, and a spectacular Grand Finale using The Revolutionary Stone Tape Projector.
‘The what now?‘ you might ask, and until yesterday I was right there with you. Many have heard of the Stone Tape Theory that suggests the very fabric of a location can capture the events that happen there, for those events to be replayed years later, often in ghostly form. I can remember being a rookie ghost hunter and being told that those ghosts who walk through doors that are no longer there are ‘probably caused by the stone tape effect’.
“Derek and Richard will try to bring an apparition out of the stonework of the old York Prison, using the Stone Tape Projector. “This will test our theory of traumatic events being recorded in the fabric of a building – in other words, can the walls talk?” ask the psychic and scientific investigators.”
This still didn’t reveal the technicality of this method though, and so I spoke to a contact of mine who has the inside scoop on the Psychic and Science stage shows who told me that
Basically, the idea was that if the Stone Tape Theory worked, they would pump power into the object, which then fed back into the machine. This was then ‘projected’ out via the Plasma bulbs… but to ‘project’ the image from the bulbs, they had to use a smoke machine to ‘cast the image’ onto because they didn’t have a screen.
The audience were invited to take lots of photographs and look for faces. I took over 150 and did not see a single face, but other people were much more fortunate, with a number of ghostly apparitions caught on camera.
I found the following photos on the Psychic and Science Facebook page which appear to show the Stone Tape Projector in action which show exactly what is happening on stage. The use of a smoke machine instead of a screen helps people see faces – faces that are illusions caused by the blue light being cast onto the swirling and moving smoke. This is something often known as simulacrum or the Pareidolia effect. Those observing this taking place don’t see the faces with their naked eye because the swirling shapes and patterns of the light and smoke are moving so fast, yet a camera will capture a still frame of this movement, and the movement and shapes caused by the smoke coupled with the light causes illusions.
In the second photo you can see a face like illusion at the lower part of the blue area. This was sent to me by an audience member who was convinced they had captured a hangman in this photo. I also can’t help but notice a screen in the background of the second image… was the smoke really needed after all? I suspect not, and I suspect that it is added for theatrical effect which is fair enough. However it is slightly concerning that people are leaving these shows thinking they have really experienced a ghost because of dodgy techniques like this.
The Stone Tape Projector relies on a scientifically weak hypothesis, and a sciene-y looking set up on stage to convince people that they’re experiencing something genuinely paranormal as the finale of this show. There is nothing credible about this technique whatsoever.
Very recently The Sun Newspaper ran a story titled ‘Mum and baby son are forced out of their house by ghosts’. This, however, wasn’t a typical story about a family fleeing their home because of weird things happening there and asking for help. This was the story of Vanessa Mitchell who is so scared of her haunted house that she started to do ghost tours around it. The article in The Sun said:
She is still shackled with the mortgage on the £147,000 two-bed cottage — once a prison for WITCHES in St Osyth, Essex. In a desperate bid to make ends meet she is opening it up to ghost tours.
Mitchell told The Sun that some quite shocking activity had been witnessed at The Cage in the time she’d lived there,
Terrified Vanessa Mitchell, 37, told how weeks after moving in the spooks started: Sneakily HITTING her from behind, PULLING her hair and trying to SHOVE visitors down the stairs. They also invisibly MOVED objects around, RATTLED doorknobs and TURNED ON taps. Then they made BLOODSPOTS appear in the hall. The final straw was after she gave birth — and when son Jesse was four months old she saw a male apparition standing over his cot.
Paranormal investigators who have visited the location and conducted ghost investigations there have never turned up substantial evidence, instead just providing orb photos and EVP recordings, both of which have perfectly rational causes that cannot be ruled out. I’m not ruling out that Vanessa has encountered these strange occurrences because to do so would be naive of me, but there was little evidence to be found online other that personal testimony, which I think is poor considering people are being charged £230 to £300 to visit the location to conduct investigations.
Ciaran O’Keeffe of Most Haunted fame had been on ITV’s ‘This Morning’ show to talk about The Cage and Vanessa’s experiences. A photo had been shown during the program to demonstrate the haunting. I hadn’t seen the show because I was at work and it wasn’t made available online but I had seen Steve Parsons from Para.Science post on Facebook that he thought the photo was a possible fake made with an App for Smartphones. He posted up his own demonstration of this and I made a mental note to look into this further when I had the time.
Although I didn’t see the show I believe the photo Steve was trying to replicate is the one included below that I found today on the Facebook group for The Cage.
I do not believe that this photo was faked using an iPhone app as Steve suggested – though it certainly does resemble the ghosts available from the App and I can see the logic in Steve’s thinking. The reason I don’t think it’s from an iPhone App is because photos can be found here on the Facebook Page for ‘The Cage‘ that set alarm bells ringing in my head because of their appearance. I emailed some people whose opinion and insight I trust on such matters and they agreed that there was something extremely odd with these photos. For example, a lot of them look as though they have been created using a smudge tool in an editing program. Deborah Hyde, editor of The Skeptic magazine, pointed out that the picture below looked out of proportion which I hadn’t noticed, Deborah commented
…People who can’t draw do this. The camera is at about windowsill height, the ‘person’ is about a metre or so into the room? It’s a very wide midget.
Another oddity was noted with This photo and this photo which are suspiciously alike, especially when you overlap them like Bob Dezon did below:
I agree with Bob that it looks as though a piece of plastic or glass has been held in front of the camera in these photos, which was something that Karl commented upon too. Ash Pryce agreed that there was something decidedly odd about the way in which this photo, this photo, and this photo taken in 2010 are all 100% identical as he demonstrated with this:
Everything about these photos provided by ‘psychic photographer’ Rob Bowers stinks of trickery, but this is something I cannot be 100% sure of because I’ve never been present when these photos have been taken. My initial reaction was that something has been painted onto a piece of plastic or glass and held in front of the camera lens to create the images as seen above (as others also pointed out) which would explain why they are so identical in different shots. This is more likely than the idea that the same spirit is striking the same pose in every shot taken considering the leap of logic such a conclusion would require. I asked an old college friend of mine who studied Media Studies what she thought of the photos and she explained that some of them looked as though they had been edited badly in photoshop using the smudge tool to create a warped effect.
I asked how they knew this and the response was that it was easy to tell just by looking at the photos. That’s when I began to fill them in as to who Ron Bowers was, how he takes his photos, the witnesses he has had standing behind him as he took the photos, etc. The response to what I shared was that they didn’t know me so could not believe what I was saying. Even Angie Christie, this site’s Spiritualist Medium, wrote on the forum as she was one of the witnesses to several of Ron’s photos, seeing them in the camera’s viewfinder over his shoulder as he snapped the photos. She was not accepted either as they stated they didn’t know her so could not believe her. This is when I offered them the names of other witnesses to contact for themselves to allow them to make an “informed” decision. This was not accepted either – no one wanted to actually do the leg work to determine if Ron’s photos were actual apparitions or fake.
This is totally a testable claim and so I would like to place an open invitation to Ron to get in touch and arrange for this claim to be tested. If one can stand behind Ron as he takes these photos and see the apparition appearing in the view finder of the camera then I would like to see that and be proven incorrect. If Ron and his colleagues think that having a skeptic on scene would make this impossible due to ‘negative energy’ then I would suggest that they train a camcorder on the viewfinder of the camera at all times so that they can film these amazing occurrences. This would, once and for all, prove to everyone that the photos are genuine.
I was incorrect as I was not aware of a trick that can be used to create these sorts of effects in photographs that isn’t obvious to those in the room with you. Watch the video below to see how Ron could be creating the effects in these photos while bystanders such as Christine watch on in amazement. I don’t know for sure that this is the method being used, but it would certainly explain a lot…
It seems that these photos are the best evidence that anyone can provide (other than orbs, EVP and testimony) that ‘The Cage’ house is haunted, and I’m not at all convinced. I’m quite saddened that so many paranormal investigators have been clambering over themselves to get into this house to look for its alleged ghosts, given the lack of supporting evidence there is to suggest that it is worth the money they hand over for the privilege of sitting inside and speaking to the twelve ghosts said to roam there. I know that if someone wanted me to pay for the privilege of conducting a ghost hunt in their premises I’d want some assurance that I wasn’t wasting my time.
I’ve been caught out by people who made up stories just to cash in on them before.This wouldn’t be the first time and it won’t be the last time that this sort of thing is attempted. Until evidence is provided then ‘The cage’ is just another unconvincing haunting in my eyes. I’d implore any paranormal researchers out there to think twice before handing over money to visit a location.
A big thank you to Deborah, Karl, Bob, Ash, Jess and my anonymous informant (regarding the magic trick ‘ghost vision) for their help with this. It’s always great to have another opinion on such things.