Weakly Ghost Bulletin #5

WEAKLY GHOST BULLETIN HEADER

Watch moment mysterious ‘spirit orb’ comes out of Teesside Ghostbuster’s head | Gazette Live

During a paranormal investigation at The Green Dragon Pub the Ghost Hunters of Stockton on Tees (G.H.O.S.T) reckon they captured footage of a spirit orb shooting out of the head of one of their team members. The Gazette reports ‘John Skerritt, 21, says that he felt a burning sensation on his face just moments before the strange occurrence – which you can see between around 36 and 46 seconds into the film.’

The footage can be watched on the news website by clicking the link above. It’s has been widely demonstrated that so-called spirit orbs are not at all paranormal in nature and happen to just be out-of-focus particles in the air that are moving around in the air. These particles- dust, hair, pollen, insects, fibres -get illuminated and appear out of focus as they pass close to the camera lens in an area often refered to as the orb zone *cue twilight zone theme tune* 

Seriously, there have been proper studies into the cause of orbs and yet people still choose to ignore this and scrape the barrel and believe that they are evidence of ghosts. Then again… we see Skerritt using a spiritbox in the video too so it’s very clear that this team has a pseudo-scientific approach and a very low threshold for evidence.

Eerie images captured by ghost hunters in Sir James Craig’s former home | Belfast Telegraph

craigavon house ghosts

 

The two images above show ghostly manifestations in Craigavon House according to Belfast based ghost hunters. Paul Black, founder of the East Coast Paranormal Society told the Belfast Telegraph “That big mirror sits at the top of the stairs. We caught the image of a spirit in it standing up against the doorstep … the figure has a full-grown beard – and none of us has a beard.”

Although the image on the left (above) does look quite creepy I’m not completely convinced that a) it isn’t a living human, and b) that isn’t a beard, but a jacket collar. Do ghosts even cast shadows? ‘cos the figure in the left photo is casting a shadow. The second photo (on the right, above) is said to show the spirit of a woman mid-manifestation. In all reality (haha, reality) it is nothing more than vapour illuminated by a camera flash or some other light source. There are dozens of reasons that there could have been a vapour or mist in the air that was unseen by ghost hunters walking around in the dark.

There have been many more ghost related news stories but I’ve made the decision to only showcase a handful of naff news stories in the WGB each week. This is mainly because most of them are just the media repeating eye-witness testimony or ghost hunting event companies trying to get free publicity off of the back of some shoddy ghost photos and I won’t further that coverage. Hayley out!

 

 

Examination: ‘Ye Olde Man’ ghost video

23 out o 34

UPDATE: I didn’t get this quite right but Bryan and Baxter did a recreation here.

Someone has sent me a link to the video that you can watch below and I smell a rat. It seems too good to be true, and when it seems too good to be true that’s usually a good indication that it is…

For those unable to watch the video, a camera is filming a section of the bar at Ye Olde Man & Sythe Pub in Bolton. There’s some flashing light from behind the camera that scatters throughout the room (initially I thought it was from passing traffic, but I think it might be from an independent light source of some kind) and suddenly what appears to be a cloaked or hooded  figure flickers into view before quickly fading away. There are stills below.

screenshot of the video
The ghostly figure

Some people are getting a bit freaked out by the nature of this video, but I don’t think it is anything remarkable. I think the effect we are seeing could be caused using a Pepper’s Ghost illusion or a similar set up. Who knows for certain? It has familiar features of such though and I sincerely got that impression after watching the video a number of times. Especially when I noticed that before the figure appears it looks as though the flashing light is reflected in something in that area of the room suggesting there might be something there for it to be reflected off of…

light reflection
What’s that?

What is a Pepper’s Ghost illusion? The BBC Learning Zone website has a great explanation, view it by clicking here, but in a nut shell it is a simple-yet-effective illusion created by using a piece of glass to create a semi-transparent reflection of someone out of view by illuminating them. It makes them seem as though they’re stood somewhere when they’re not and because the light is reflecting on the glass you can see through them.

I had a quick dig around online and found that the account that uploaded the video to Youtube belongs to Richard Greenwood, the current manager of the pub who took over in 2012 after it closed down briefly. In a 2012 article about the reopening, The Bolton News quoted Greenwood as saying he wanted to capitalise on the history of the pub which dates back to 1251 and is thought to be one of the four oldest public houses in the country.

The paper reported that ‘Mr Greenwood, aged 37, has worked as a consultant for bars and hotels all over the world and said he wants to make the pub better than it was before. Mr Greenwood said he wanted to capitalise on the pub’s history and is talking to council chiefs about how to promote it as a tourist attraction.’

It has a reputation with ghost hunters but Greenwood denies that this video is the product of trickery. I’m still suspicious though…  See, Richard Greenwood is also Managing Director for Consult Greenwood Ltd, a consultancy firm supplying creative routes to market for new products and technologies. With this in mind I am drawn to question whether this ghost video is a ‘creative route’ for marketing the history of Ye Olde Man and Scythe to help it become more of a tourist attraction. I could be completely wrong though, and would love to hear the thoughts of others in the comments below.

Good Thinking Society: Funding for SitP

qed

I was skeptical of the Good Thinking Society’s £500 award for Skeptics in the Pub group that is being judged at QEDcon this year. Announced on their website yesterday, the Society said

If you can come up with an idea that requires this sort of funding you’re in with a chance. All you need to do is submit a short proposal (max 200 words) to us here at Good Thinking. We’ll then select our favourites and those chosen will be asked to pitch their proposals to a panel at QED. Ideas could cover almost anything: skeptical activism, improving your particular SitP group, providing a resource to support all SitP groups and so on. The proposer will be grilled by both the panel and the audience. At the end, the panel will decide on the winner and they will walk away with £500 to use for the proposal.

Think Dragon’s Den, but in a less confrontational, more supportive way (Unicorn’s Lair? Kitten’s Krib?). Ideas could cover almost anything: skeptical activism, improving your particular SitP group, providing a resource to support all SitP groups and so on.

Some people have taken the ‘Dragon’s Den’ description literally, and have ignored the mention of ‘a less confrontational, more supportive way’. One friend of mine commented

Making SITP groups compete with each other for cash in reality TV style competitions is not the way to build a thriving, cooperative network.

What is being missed here is that the Good Thinking Society offer these sorts of grants outside of the QEDcon through their website all of the time – this is simply the Society using the popular QEDcon to engage with the sorts of people they can help, and offering a breakout event where people can share and showcase their ideas.

As another of my friends commented

£500 could buy plenty of grass roots skepto-goodness. I can’t imagine anyone having actual objections to the idea

£500 is a lot of money for groups who typically ask audience members for a £2 donation on the door, but as I mentioned in my blog post about the Golden Duck Awards last year, what works for one Skeptics in the Pub group doesn’t work for others, and not all Skeptics in the Pub groups have the same missions or intentions. I think that offering £500 for a SitP group is a great idea that could offer a group the chance to do something they’ve been wanting to do but haven’t managed because of funding, but I also understand that many groups might see it as not for them, but it’s these sorts of differences between groups that make Skeptics in the Pub groups so great, it’s this individuality that will be celebrated at QEDcon, and it’s the new ideas being brought to the table and shared in the Good Thinking Society session that will help people make their groups grow.

So, if you have an idea and you could use the funding then head over to The Good Thinking Society website now and make a submission. It could be good.

Herding cats & Golden ducks

question everything

Trying to organise skeptics is like herding cats – it’s an analogy I’ve heard many times. Often the only thing those who identify as skeptics have in common is their skepticism about certain subjects. People who identify as skeptics disagree about many things and, of course, those who are skeptics can be irrational about a number of things too…

Since becoming an active skeptic in 2007/2008 I have seen a number of attitudes that suggest skepticism should be done in one way or another, and that so many people are doing skepticism wrong, or for the wrong reasons. I absorbed those ideas and saw people doing skepticism wrong all around me, and I disproved of what so many did and said in the name of skepticism. I blamed others for making me feel as though I could no longer identify as a skeptic, or didn’t belong in a skeptical community. It was all very ridiculous of me because my aims, goals, and morals aren’t the same as other peoples, and I’ve no right to expect them to live up to my self set standards – just as others have no right to expect me to live up to theirs.

Although Skeptics in the Pub groups (SitP) don’t offer a true representation of skepticism within the UK, I’ve spoken for a number of SitP groups about modern ghost hunting since 2009, and something that becomes quite apparent after a while is just how unique different regional groups are – just as individual skeptics are different.

The way groups operate, the audience they attract, and the perception of them held by those who do not identify as skeptics all changes from group to group. Some SitP organisers want their groups to be attractive to people who don’t identify as skeptics, other organisers want their groups to be more diverse based on the gender, ethnicity, or age of their audience members, and some groups don’t worry too much about audience development, and let their groups ‘go with the flow’.

Due to these different priorities there is often much debate that surrounds what is the ‘right way’ for a SitP group to operate, and what the right and wrong things are to focus on. There have been sessions at UK skeptical conferences dedicated to thrashing out the wrongs and rights of SitP, with people walking away shaking their heads as though everyone else in the room ‘just doesn’t get it’, but what it really boils down to is individual skeptical groups catering to individual groups of skeptics. Something that many forget.

One example of the differences that people fail to see among these groups was demonstrated when the discussion online about harassment policies at skeptical events crossed over into the realm of SitP. Some organisers have such policies in place, some recently decided to put them in place, while others have stated they don’t believe their group needs such a policy.

At first I thought that it was pretty ignorant to suggest that your group was immune from harassment and inappropriate behaviour taking place, but then after thinking about my own experiences with different SitP groups I realised that it’s impossible to expect all of the groups to do the same things successfully when they’re all so different. What was the solution to this, I wondered, before realising that I don’t think there even needs to be a solution.

The Good Thinking Society recently asked the organisers of SitP groups whether they would help select the winner of the Golden Duck Award. The award will be given to one of three shortlisted candidates to highlight quackery in our society, and the winner will be selected by Skeptics in the Pub audiences. Yet, a friend who is the an organiser of a SitP group told me in confidence how much of a nightmare it was for them to even try to bring up the subject at their events without putting off half of their returning audience.

Their audience is an equal mix of those who identify as skeptics and those who don’t, and asking people to select a person to win an award for being a quack would push what felt like a skeptical agenda onto people who weren’t interested, so the organiser is question had decided to not bother, and to wonder whether their SitP group was even a candidate for the ‘Skeptics in the Pub’ title because of this. This concerned me, and I contacted Johnnie Shannon from the Good Thinking Society to see if this was a situation they had thought of when they decided to let SitP audiences choose the winner for the award. I asked whether the assumption had been made that all SitP groups were the same. Shannon explained:

[We] wanted to try and enhance the sense of community between disparate SitP groups by having an event in which many groups could partake if they so wished. We weren’t entirely sure at the start of the year how this would go down, so we emailed all the SitP conveners whose details we could find to ask their opinions. Of the 23 groups who replied, one was ambivalent, and one definitely did not want to be involved… All the other responses were enthusiastic and supportive. We took that as reason to proceed with the award.

Enhancing the sense of community between what was described as ‘disparate SitP groups’ is a noble cause, but is it such a terrible thing  if groups are so different from one another, and have different aims? It often seems as though skeptics are obsessed with fixing what works, and I don’t think that’s proactive. All sorts of people are skeptics, and skepticism is all sorts of things – and that’s okay!

Cork Skeptics, you rock!

Last week I visited Edinburgh to talk for the Edinburgh skeptics in the pub group and have a look around the ‘haunted city’. I have a blog post in the works about my trip so do check back for the details – it was an awesome few days.

However, what I wanted to write about was the talk I did for Cork Skeptics in the Pub (well, in the castle to be exact) while I was still in Scotland. It was all done via skype which is such a simple, effective yet overlooked idea that it blew my mind.

Patrick Fisher from the Victoria Skeptics (known as YYJ Skeptics as not to be confused with the other Victoria Skeptics…) was talking alongside myself and Ashley Pryce who helped form Edinburgh skeptics and writes for The 21st Floor. We spoke about a variety of paranormal subjects between us for over an hour and then took questions from the audience who were in Cork.

It was a really fun experience, it was really well executed and planned and I wanted to write a brief blog to say thank you to Colm from Cork Skeptics, and all of those who worked alongside him (whose names I forget… sorry…) for making that talk happen.

I may be wrong, but it’s the first time I’ve ever heard of a ‘Skeptics in the Pub’ group using such a method to deliver a panel of speakers. I certainly hope it will not be the last.

Okay so I know Skype isn’t a new thing, and I’ve been aware of conference calls for a while… but this was so much more awesome!

A photo showing the conference call in action with Colm from Cork Skeptics standing in front of our camera feeds on the screenColm from Cork Skeptics in person with Me and Ash Pryce (top camera feed), Patrick Fisher (bottom right feed) and random audience members (bottom left feed).

p.s. read an interview I did for Ash Pryce for The 21st Floor here.
p.p.s check out the awesome artwork the Cork Skeptics have for their events! Jealous!