The Paranormal 5: A review

This is part one of a two part review. Part two is here.

The Paranormal 5 is a television series made for ITV West in the UK (the region that I live in) that aired on Thursday 10th July 2008. It ran for eight weeks until Thursday 28th August 2008. ‘The Paranormal 5′ were members of a (now inactive) paranormal team called ‘UK5 Paranormal‘, members of which had previously operated under the team name ‘Jorden Williams Paranormal’ along with members of the team now called ‘Twilight Shadows Paranormal’ prior to ‘Jorden Williams Paranormal’ splitting as the two co-founders, Ray Jorden (UK5 Paranormal) and Maria Williams (Twilight Shadows Paranormal) had a difference of opinion on the future of the team. In the past I have worked with both ‘Jorden Williams Paranormal’ and later ‘UK5 Paranormal’ as a friend of Ray Jorden, who was the ‘lead investigator’ in ‘The Paranormal 5′ program. Due to a conflict of interests and opinions both Ray and I fell out in 2007, which as many will know was when I became a more skeptical paranormal researcher.

The Paranormal 5 – L-R: Andy, Ray, Samantha, Paul & Wayne (1)

When it was announced that the ‘UK5 Paranormal team’ were filming a television show it was soon revealed by two teams based in Swindon, ‘Paranormal Site Investigators‘ and ‘South West Paranormal Group’, that both teams had been approached by the producers prior to them approaching ‘UK5 Paranormal’ about appearing on the show. Both groups had declined to be involved when it was revealed that the production company weren’t sure if they wanted their show to be educational and factual, or dramatic and entertaining.

I watched the first few episodes of ‘The Paranormal 5′ when it first aired out of interest in the way the research would be portrayed, and the locations the crew would visit because Wiltshire plays host to some historically rich venues that I find of great interest. I didn’t get to see all of the episodes because of a conflicting work schedule and so I was unable to write a full review of the program and the way the team had presented paranormal research.

It came to my attention yesterday that the episodes of ‘The Paranormal 5′ had been made available on YouTube and as I had nothing planned I watched the whole series with a growing sense of unsurprising disappointment.

The Episodes: [one] [two] [three] [four] [five] [six] [seven] [eight]

Each episode shows the team of five (made up of four investigators called Ray Jorden, Wayne Punter, Samantha Rees & Andrew Carter, and one spirit medium called Paul Derrick) entering locations that are reputed to be haunted. Two members of the team are shown speaking to the owners or occupants of the location before the episode cuts away to what it termed as “the technical investigation” by the other two team members, before the medium, Paul, is brought into the location to do a walk around and psychometry.

Paul Derrick (2)

A couple of episodes in I stopped making notes about the things that Paul (the medium) was supposedly sensing or picking up in the locations because although he provided full names and dates on most occasions, those never led to anything significant being discovered which, to my mind, suggests he was incorrect or making it up. What did become apparent with Paul’s involvement in the episodes was that his readings of the locations dominated each show significantly and this is a real shame as mediumship is an unproven ability that many claim to have, and as such it does not contribute to paranormal research, and certainly did not contribute to the investigations conducted at the locations visited by ‘The Paranormal 5′. In fact, Paul did very little to address the genuine experiences reported by the people who live and work in the locations the television crew visited for the show.

I have met and worked with Paul Derrick on numerous occasions and although he is a very friendly person I do not believe that he has the abilities he claims to mainly because of the lack of supporting evidence and because during one investigation I conducted with him as part of the ‘Jorden Williams Paranormal’ team I developed a very bad headache and Paul offered to heal it. On doing so he told me that I suffered with pain in my shoulder and jaw which were both incorrect, and he failed to notice an undetected growth in my right ear that was slowly ‘eating’ its way through the nerve that controls facial movement that eventually went on to cause permanent damage.

In my review I have decided to focus upon how ‘The Paranormal 5′ handled and investigated the claims and experiences reported to them and not the readings done by Paul Derrick because of the reasons mentioned above.

Episode one - the story of the falling chalkboard
Location visited: The Rose of Denmark pub, Bristol
Reported activity:
- lights turn themselves on and off
- kitchen taps turn on, on their own
- A chalk board fell off of the wall on its own while the pub was open
- A 9 gallon barrel behind the bar fell off of its hold while the pub was open
- A tankard hanging above the bar is often seen swinging back and forth on its own
- Landlady was in bed at 4am and heard barrels being rolled across the floor in the bar

As the episode opens we are told via a voice over that ‘The Paranormal 5′ are:

“…a team of investigators whose aim is to prove or disprove the existence of paranormal activity, they combine the latest technology with the skills of a medium to try and uncover the mysteries of the unexplained.”

The landlady and landlord talk to Ray and Wayne about their experiences and the odd things that have happened in the pub while notes are taken by Wayne, the show then cuts to Andy and Samantha who we’re told are:

“…running technical tests to rule out obvious causes and to find evidence of paranormal activity”

The first aspect of the reported phenomena that Andy & Samantha have chosen to investigate is the chalk board that is said to have jumped from the wall of the pub and onto a table while the pub was open. Andy declares that they should set up a trigger object experiment on the table in front of the chalk board which Samantha then proceeds to do. She places a number of glass marbles on the table and then squirts talcum powder over the top of them.

I found myself asking why they had done this. Firstly, it’s a badly set up ‘trigger object’ experiment as normally you would place the powder on the table and then carefully place each marble into the powder, and secondly, had the marbles moved what would it have proven exactly? Their aim is to ‘rule out obvious causes and to find evidence of paranormal activity‘, but a marble moving on its own does neither of those things – it’s their personal interpretation of that marble moving that makes such a decision and it is clear from the start that the way in which the investigators in ‘The Paranormal 5′ interpret the things reported to them, their experiences, equipment and methods is extremely naive and flawed.

The chalk board that fell from the wall is then inspected and the hook and wire that it hangs on are found to be sturdy and intact, but what Andy and Samantha have failed to consider here is the fact that it is sturdy and intact NOW and that they may not be studying the board in the conditions it was in when it fell. We only have the word of the Landlady and Landlord that it was intact after falling, and although we have no reason to believe they would lie, we do have to remember that memory is flawed and we can misremember certain things. Simply because the board is intact now, doesn’t mean that there is no reason it could have fallen off the wall – a claim that Samantha makes when she says that they:

“…can’t explain why that would have come off”.

the model of thermometer used

While they are by the board area Andy gets out a hygro-thermometer (“to check everything is in order” – what that means I’m not sure…), and an EMF meter and does a quick sweep with each and comments that he isn’t getting “much”. The way in which he has used these pieces of equipment are incorrect as he has clearly not allowed them to stabilise in that area. This may have been done simply for the camera, but they still base their conclusion off of those readings which is flawed.

Oddly, they also check the window next to the board for a draft which seems rather pointless and isn’t what I would consider a ‘obvious cause’ that should be ruled out.

“That concludes that investigation”

…declares Andy as they move on to the next part of the building they want to investigate.

A draft is also searched for near the 9 gallon barrel that was reported to have rolled off of its hold on its own. Now, I don’t know about you but I think that a breeze strong enough to cause a barrel to move would be detectable without a hand-held draft detector…

A trigger object is also set up near the barrels that sit behind the bar – this time a large circle with a number of coins placed around the edge of the circle. Again, this experiment is pointless because even if those coins move away from the circle it doesn’t prove a thing and there could be numerous reasons such a movement occurred.

They also test for draughts around the tankard that is said to swing above the bar and when they can’t find one they don’t consider other options. For example, as you watch the episode you can see a busy road outside of the pub with lorries and cars passing by, I would hazard a guess and say that the swinging tankard could be caused by vibrations. Does the pub play music? That could also contribute to vibrations that travel along the bar and centre in one area… where the tankard happens to be. In fact, a little later into the episode when Paul the medium is walking around with Ray and Wayne, Ray spots a drip tray is swinging backwards and forwards – I would suggest this too could have been caused by vibrations (or someone touching it.)

That essentially concludes the “technical investigation” in episode one and the rest of the episode sees the medium walking around and sensing things and talking to himself. Interestingly, at one point Paul is talking about a spirit who allegedly fell down some steps going into the cellar. He says to the supposed ghost:

“Were those the steps you went down? They weren’t like that? Are they in the same area?”

As Paul is awaiting a ‘response’ from the spirit, Ray Jorden (on the right of the screen) is seen very clearly shaking his head to indicate ‘no’ before Paul says the spirit is saying no. Coincidence? Maybe…

Episode Twothe team uncover a murder
Locations visited: The Crown, Wells and Private Cottage, Cirencester
Reported activity at The Crown:
- Black barley was found in pyramids on pillow and chairs
- A guest awoke to find duvet being pulled off of him several nights in a row
- receptionist sees a lady walking upstairs, when they follow her they can’t find her.
Reported activity at the Private Cottage:
- owner hears the door opening and footsteps in the house
- owners daughters saw a woman on two separate occasions

The Crown

Black barley reconstruction (3)

Samantha and Wayne enter one of the rooms in which a strange pile of black barley had once been discovered on a pillow and they set up a trigger object experiment near the head of the bed – again they use coins placed around the edge of a circle. This baffled me because the reported phenomena was the discovery of strange pyramid-shaped piles of black barley made on the pillows or other surfaces in a room. A trigger object experiment is (wrongly) used to see if a ghost will move an object, so why such an experiment was chosen to “rule out obvious causes or provide evidence of paranormal activity” in this instance is beyond me.
When the coins fail to move Samantha states

“they [the coins] didn’t come up with anything so we can’t come up with an explanation at all”

Well I can. Someone put the pyramids of barley there – it’s a much more plausible explanation that “a ghost did it and will move these coins to prove it”.

They move to the corridor the apparition of a lady has been followed into only to not be found, and they use the EMF meter here to determine if there are any “energies”. They get a slight reading and Samantha suggests there were no visible wires that could have caused the reading which is naive and shows a clear misunderstanding of what Electro-magnetic fields are. She also states that it is thought such fields can cause people to feel as though a ghost is present or to hallucinate, but electromagnetic hyper-sensitivity isn’t that clear-cut and to present it as being so is misleading.

They finish their technical investigation by taking some photos of the corridor, and I quote:

“in case there was anything we couldn’t see with the naked eye”.

What a bizarre thing to say, this suggests that a digital camera is able to detect and photograph ghosts which isn’t the case.

The Cottage

This location doesn’t see much of a “technical investigation” conducted and is mostly left to Paul the medium to work out by conducting his readings and communications. The team do use a digital Dictaphone to conduct ‘electronic voice phenomena’ research and spend a period of time in one room asking questions and leaving pauses for any ghosts to talk back, but this is a classic example of a team confusing ‘using equipment’ with ‘technical and scientific’. Electronic voice phenomena has been widely shown to be nonsense and I think it is wrong that paranormal researchers use such techniques – that simply fuel their own biases – in the home of somebody else.

Episode Three - the story of the woman who died after being burnt
Locations visited: A bookshop in Gloucestershire & Private house in Chipping Sodbury
Reported activity at the bookshop:
- books fall off of the shelves and they find things scattered around in the mornings
- lady in a raincoat seen in an outbuilding, when staff go to speak to her she isn’t there
- staff see a figure going up to the shops second floor but there is nobody there
Reported activity at the private house:
- lady never feels alone, especially in her meditation room
- hears somebody whistling or humming at her from window area

The book shop

At the book shop it is Wayne’s turn to do the technical investigation which I thought could be a change of direction, but I was proven wrong when he immediately set up a trigger object experiment amongst some books (that are reported to fall onto the floor). He uses a circle with coins placed on the line again and this time a coin actually moves a centimetre or so off of the line and into the circle yet, despite the fact that Wayne has clearly set up a ‘locked off’ camcorder next to the experiment filming the coins, we don’t get to see the footage of it moving. Wayne also states that there is:

“no way it could be vibrations”

…but I would question how he can be so sure of this as I would personally think that in such an old building vibrations and moving floorboards would be highly likely to be a cause of such movement. Wayne also calls the movement on the coin:

“a brilliant example of spirit activity”

but it isn’t, it’s just his definition of what the coin moving means. There is no evidence to support the idea that a spirit made the coin move and because of this, such a conclusion is a leap of logic.

In another area of the location they conduct an EVP experiment as well as using a data logger to log the temperature, and an EMF meter. During the EVP experiment they claim to capture several answers that I believe they think are proof of the paranormal. It is really difficult to pick words out of each recording, but once the words are suggested to you it is easy to make them fit. There are numerous reasons these noises could have been recorded and I think it is rather naive of ‘The Paranormal 5′ to suggest the recordings are paranormal in nature.

Private house

The owner of the private house that is investigated for the show is clearly a very spiritual person who is already set on the idea that her house is haunted by a spirit. She claims that she hears a whistling or humming noise coming from the window area of her meditation room that she cannot source and has had a window fitter around to check the windows for holes to gaps but none were found.

While at the location Andy and Samantha check the window for such drafts and none are found, they also conduct an EVP session in the room, during which Andy notes that the dream catcher in the corner of the room is spinning very slowly, something for which Andy says there is “no explanation”. Something I would disagree with, just because a draught wasn’t felt to be coming through the window doesn’t mean there isn’t an air current coming from elsewhere – through the open door for example. Additionally, the team and crew have been walking around and may have caused vibrations that set it moving. As for the whistling/humming noise – I personally would have looked for other causes than just the window. There could have been pipes, or maybe something externally that was causing the noise, but this was not done so we don’t know.

READ PART TWO>>>

Footage used in this article is from ‘The Paranormal 5′ and is used under ‘fair dealing‘ for a critique and belongs to ‘Serendipity productions’, ITV, and ITV West.
Photo credits:
1 – www.uk5paranormal.com
2 – www.paulspiritmedium.co.uk
3 – Screenshot from ep 2 of ‘The Paranormal 5′ by Serendipity productions for ITV
4 – 2 Screenshots from ep 4 of ‘The Paranormal 5′ by Serendipity productions for ITV

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7 Comments to “The Paranormal 5: A review”

  1. Huzzah for thorough analysis of disappointing let-downs!

    I can be a bit dismissive of the whole ghost-hunting enterprise sometime, but only really because shows like Most Haunted tend to dominate my perception of the whole field. This show doesn’t sound like it’s achieving much more of value, and yet reading about some of the situations they’re “investigating” I can absolutely see the potential value in taking a look at these phenomena. Someone who knows what they’re doing, actually trying to find out what might be causing mysterious knocking sounds or chalkboards to fall or tankards to swing, might really be interesting, as well as helpful to the people who live with these things and are getting spooked by them.

    It’s just a shame that more sober researchers without such lackadaisical use of sciencey-looking gadgets they don’t understand aren’t offered their own TV shows so often.

  2. Nice one, Hayley. I am impressed that you managed to sit through all of this.

  3. David Cohen // 25 May, 2011 at 1:56 am // Reply

    I agree with writerJames. Unfortunately none of the ‘Ghost Hunting’ programmes I have seen have adopted a scientific approach. Hardly surprising as I doubt if many (or any?) of the ‘researchers’ have studied a relevant subject to a reasonable level competence. You cannot carry out sensible research in this manner and time scale.

    Hayley, the thermometer you illustrate above has a sensor that would have a long response time. That would be useful to ‘even out’ effects of draughts but no use if it is waved about quickly to ‘find’ hot or cold spots. As a side issue electronic thermometers are based round digital chips which are ‘clocked’ by an oscillator, have counter circuits working on square waves and have LCD or LED displays which are most often driven by multplex drivers all of which can generate electromagnetic signals.

    As I have commented to a previous blog, a spike on something like an EMF meter could be caused by a transmission from a passing mobile radio or other equipment. These days there are central heating thermostats that ‘talk’ to the boiler by wireless. What about garage door openers or even car door remote controls or a voice activated baby alarm in a nearby building?

    Whilst they, the ‘ghost hunters’, believe that electromagnetic anomalies may indicate paranormal activities they surround themselves with TV equipment that is probably generating all manner of electromagnetic radiation. It’s like trying to find which member of the orchestra is whispering as they all play the 1812 overture! As for EVP I have previously commented on this at some length.

    These TV programmes are just entertainment (or in my view rubbish) and in the case of Most Haunted just make money for the production company.

    Spoon benders were unable to claim the prize offered by James Randi . Has any medium offered themselves up for proper study by a university; and if so, what were the results?

    Does anyone know of an isolated site that has been properly, and by this I mean scientifically, researched over a long period of time while all human beings have been securely excluded? Until this happens the jury is out!

  4. @WriterJames: It’s sad that proper, skeptical people don’t get shows, but not really surprising. TV execs are in it to get viewers, and the audience for a skeptical ghost show, done straight (as opposed to the f They’re probably afraid that if they did a skeptical ghost show, none of the people that would enjoy it will tune in, since they’ll think it’s just same old, and all the usual ghost show audience will be annoyed that they aren’t getting the validation of their beliefs.

    There was High Spirits with Shirley Ghostman, which was rather good at exposing all of it through comedy, though. I recommend it.

  5. But High Spirits didn’t show how to do a proper investigation, so… I dunno. Still, I don’t think we’ll get much better than that.

  6. What a vindictive nasty little girl you are!
    If people enjoy their search belief in the paranormal
    why belittle them?
    I have seen you have blogged everywhere on the internet even making fun of your own team!
    no wonder your team seems to fail and you are continuously recruiting new members, bad mouthing everyone at every opportunity.
    Nasty little girl!
    I expect this comment will be deleated before anyone can read it as it goes against you!
    and God forbid anyone that does that!

    • Hi John,

      Thanks for visiting my blog. There are a few problems with your comment I just want to point out.

      1) I’m 25, so not really ‘a little girl’.
      2) I haven’t belittled anybody, just written my honest opinion about a bad and misleading television show, even pointing out the ‘conflict of interest’, so to speak. However, even if it wasn’t the UK5 team and was someone else, and they acted as irrationally and as unprofessionally then I’d still find the same problems if they were present in the show, and I’d still write about them.
      3) I haven’t made fun of my own team, as I don’t have a team.
      4) I haven’t tried to ‘recruit’ people to me team for over 2 years now, and the last time I did so was because team members had moved away or had started a family. Though, people will always see something sinister where they want to ;)
      5) I wont delete the comment as I’m really not the person you seem to think I am. Being called a nasty little girl and vindictive is no skin off of my nose.

      I do find it odd though, that you would rake over old coals on something from 2011 just to call me names. Boring.

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