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The Worst Ghosts of 2011

It’s that time of the year again where we cast an eye back over 2011 and depress ourselves by re-reading web and newspaper coverage of potential-but-not-quite ghost stories. We did the same last year. It’s been tricky, but we’ve managed to cut the worst stories out there down to just five and they are outlined below. Enjoy!

The Worst Ghosts of 2011

The G.S.I Team

#5 – The Braunstone ghost

The Braunstone ghost haunted a family home, causing the family to live in fear as it allegedly started fires and punched family members. This spook and it’s antics made the newspapers, and even saw the investigators involved, G.S.I Paranormal, interviewed live on national television, so you’re probably thinking that is must have been a quality story, but you’re wrong. This ‘ghost’ and the ‘evidence’ that came with it was mediocre nonsense that we’ve seen numerous times before.

This case needed proper investigation – not only because of the nature of the reported phenomena, but also because of the potentially vulnerable people involved. What this case got instead were ghost hunters who are carbon copies of paranormal investigators from television shows. With an array of gadgets that don’t actually do anything useful and a lead investigator who claims ghosts talk directly to him, their investigation provided nothing we haven’t seen before, and nothing substantial.

The evidence they provided on ‘This Morning’ – a national television show aired in the UK, consisted of videos of orbs that the investigators refused to believe could be dust or insects. There was also an alleged ‘spirit vortex’ caught on camera by the this team too which, in all honestly, appears to be a piece of wire (like a mobile phone charger wire, perhaps) hanging in front of the camera. Nothing impressive or groundbreaking.

Orb video one

Orb Video two

The Spirit Vortex/Portal video

Then there was the most amazing evidence ever. Footage of a ghost changing the temperature on command… or, a ghost hunter unaware of how a laser thermometer works. As you will see in the video below, Don Philip believes that a spirit is changing the temperature as he asks it to, when in all reality, it is his misuse of the thermometer that causes such an effect.

Watch from the 03:00 mark

The saddest thing about this ghost isn’t the eye-witness reports from the family in residence, or the rubbish ‘evidence’ provided by the ghost hunters, but in fact the closed-minded and outdated way in which they investigated the case. They let down the people who live in the house greatly, and that’s why their temperature changing spook made it into our ‘worst ghosts of 2011’ list.

More from Don Philip further & GSI down the list…

#4 – The Coventry poltergeist

A Coventry council house played host to a ghost that allegedly pushed two pet dogs down the stairs – one of which sadly died through its injuries. This ghost story first broke on The Sun website where it was explained that the single mother and two children witnessed an array of odd occurrences ranging from chairs flying across rooms to doors being wedged shut from the other side, trapping the family.

Although unlikely to be paranormal in nature, the things witnessed by the family were interesting and worthy of research. Yet, their story was let down with the accompaniment of a rather dodgy video documenting questionable poltergeist activity.

See our recreation (enacted by Hayley with the help of Sharon) below:

The initial experiences may have been genuine, but the poltergeist video certainly isn’t.

It’s okay though, because The Sun got Derek Acorah in to sort things out… 

#3 – The Thorpe Park Monk

The investigation took place in November 2010, but the ghost alleged to haunt Thorpe Park didn’t make headlines until February 2011. According to South West London Paranormal Group who were called in by ‘Thorpe Park bosses’, oddities witnessed by workmen building a new ride at the theme park were caused by the spirit of a headless monk, buried in the ground that the ride was being built upon. The team report of the investigation shows a clearly biased approach to their investigations, with several members claiming to be sensetive to ghosts/spirits. Not only that but their conclusions were questionable, with team founder Jim Arnold saying:

‘We carry out these kinds of investigations quite regularly, with medium to weak results being reported on a weekly basis. ‘Thorpe Park, however, was more striking as results were picked up immediately, with orbs, ghostly images in photography and ouija reaction results being strongest around the site where they were proposing to build Storm Surge.

‘The results were so strong, we felt the only explanation could be that an ancient burial ground or settlement was being disturbed, prompting the extra paranormal activity.’

Not only was the methodology used psuedo-scientific and dodgy, but so was the evidence provided. Our favourite is below.

It’s more likely that the evidence collected by SWLPG was the product of suggestion and confirmation bias, and Thorpe Park saw the chance to grab headlines off of the back of this. Readers may remember that they did something similar around the time they opened the Saw Rollercoaster. Spooky,

A still from the Walton Horse video

#2 – The Walton ghost horse

I first discovered the Walton ghost horse one day when visiting Professor Chris French’s Facebook profile to leave a message. There was a video posted on there by Don Philip, the lead investigator for G.S.I Paranormal UK.

Of the video and recording, Don says:

 its enclosed 4 walls no windows, in the middle of nowhere with no passing traffic, people or neibours[sic],that store room was a stable in the 1800s and its approx 2.45 am in the morning. The video camera caught it, the video camera then shows the digital recorder playing the evp and finally the evp from the recorder played at the end, now that would take some debunking or a hell of an alternative explanation considering the sound is obviously in the room with us and so clear and loud.

It is clear from the video that the people present believe it to be a horse, referred to as ‘Bubbles’ by one of the women present. Apparently this is because they found a grave marker close by for a horse called ‘Bubbles’. That’s a claim that requires evidence, but all we have is this odd noise that Don and his friends are claiming IS evidence. The problem here is that there are so many possible alternative causes for such strange noises (often referred to as ‘Electronic Voice Phenomena’) that before anyone can say ‘this is supernatural’ they have to be able to cross off every possible natural cause.

The G.S.I team cannot do this, and as they’re the ones who are making the claims about this recording, the burden of proof sits squarely with them. Also, Strangely, when I asked them to elaborate what they were claiming the noise was in our conversation on Facebook they all seemed to be very evasive and vague about it. Despite the fact that they identify it as a horse in the actual video (as you have hopefully just seen or heard above).

Professor French had posted in response to the video on his Facebook wall that he was busy but would be interested to hear my opinion on the video, so I had a good listen numerous times and came to the following conclusion:

To me it sounds like nothing more than something being dragged along a rough surface, such as a floor or worktop – the sound being interpreted as a horse braying or snorting is the sound of friction between the object and the surface.

I believe the link you are making with the sound being a horse is because you’ve accidentally primed yourself with the reputed haunting of the building – you call the horse by it’s name suggesting there is rumour the place is haunted, or associated with a dead horse called Bubbles. If you were to take away that association and listen to the sound I do not believe it would be linked to a horse by anyone present.

Electronic Voice Phenomena isn’t a sturdy method of paranormal investigation due to the lack of data involved, and the influencing factors at play beyond the control of the person conducting the EVP session.

I also played the recording to a friend of mine who keeps horses without telling her what the noise was thought to be. She didn’t recognise the noise, and when I suggested it was a horse she didn’t agree. The same happened when Chris French played it to his daughter who also rides horses. Take away the priming information – that it is a horse, or that a horse is buried there – and people don’t make the link.

In fact, this is something that happened time and time again. I downloaded the noise, you see, and played it at several ‘skeptics in the pub’ events that I spoke at. I played it at Edinburgh, Bristol and Westminster and nobody was able to identify the noise as a horse. That’s hundreds of people who listened to the recording who, without being prompted that it might be a horse, were unable to identify it as such.

Verdit: Not a horse ghost. Neigh.

Paul Drake, the man who hunted the ghost dog

1 – the ghost of ‘Nigger’

A team of paranormal investigators, Paranormal Lincs,  claimed in November that they had made contact with the “spirit” of the dog owned by Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the heroic pilot who led the Dambusters raids during the Second World War.

Wing Commander Gibson led the Dambusters raid in 1943 from his base at RAF Scampton, near Lincoln, just hours after his black labrador, called ‘Nigger’*, was run over and killed.

The first sighting of the ghost dog was reported in 1952, so what, you might ask, prompted a paranormal group to undertake such an investigation?

It was the photo below.

It was taken in the 80’s and shows shows a Labrador among a school group at a memorial to the Dambusters, close to where Gibson’s dog was buried. The photographer is said to have claimed the dog appeared from nowhere just as the photo was being taken, refusing to be shooed away and, as soon as the photo was taken, the dog disappeared, never to be seen again.

Of course, there is no proof that this happened – we only have the word of one person to go on, but that’s never stopped ghost hunters before. Not to mention the fact that those from the ‘Paranormal Lincs’ team didn’t even speak to the photographer directly. This is just a recycled story with no verification.

The paranormal team conducted their investigation and are convinced they not only detected the ghost dog, but also that they spoke to Guy Gibson himself.

The Daily Mail reported: 


After staking out the base at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, now the home of the Red Arrows, ghost hunters are convinced it is haunted by a ghostly Labrador. The lead investigator, Paul Drake, said:

‘There is definitely paranormal activity there. One of our investigators felt a cold spot and when we measured it, it was eighteen inches, which is about the height of a dog. The curator of the museum has told us that he has felt for years that he has had a presence following him and he definitely feels that it is that of a dog.’

One investigator who stayed overnight at the base last month even claimed she heard a dog growling when she entered Gibson’s former office.

‘I definitely heard the growl of a dog’, said Michelle Clements, 45. ‘Three of us heard it and we all agreed it was a dog. It was a really low growl. It wasn’t a happy yap at all. It sounded sounded like he was warning us to stay away.’

After scouring the base with infra-red lights, proximity sensors and video cameras, the team say they picked up activity which suggests the pilot was trying to speak to them.

‘I do believe we spoke with Guy Gibson,’ Miss Clements, a school dinner lady from Leicester, said. ‘We asked him if he was with his girlfriend Margaret and he said yes. We also played some old music from the 40s and there was a response to that as well.’


It isn’t specified what activity they picked up, but a quick look at this BBC article shows that the team used K2 meters to talk to the ‘spirits’ which is quite ignorant.

A quick look on the teams website forum sheds light on the sort of evidence we are dealing with.

‘…we got loads of orbs and one that looks like a face and an arm. The Atmosphere felt strange as if their was people in there watching us.’

‘…the K2 meters were going crazy. I played some vera lynn to get things started. it looked like he was singing along to the song which was sweet of him :).. he also just wanted us women in their we found out as he didnt like the men.’

‘…about 9pm we got all the equipment set up in both guy Gibson office and the hanger ( museum ). we had alot of orbs in the hanger.’

‘…we went into the next room to his, his agented ( personal secretary). ha ha i dont think he was impressed by us because the k2’s were going mad as we werent standing to attention.’

‘It was wierd that i took pics showing an orb above the reporters head as well as other strange things considering we were not doing a full investigation.’

Convincing….

To summarise once again, this investigation took place because of a ghost story associated with a photo that is decades old. The investigators used ghost hunting gadgets that don’t do as claimed, and accepted things such as orbs and cold spots as evidence that a ghost was present. They presumed these ‘ghosts’ they were communicating with, or detecting with their gadgets were that of Guy Gibson and his dog simply because of the ghost story they were chasing.

Worst. Ghost. Ever.

There you have it. The worst ghosts of 2011. If you think we missed a story why not post it in the comments below? You can also follow us Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

*we used the name of the dog in context and mean no offense.

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The Phones4U Ghost

screen cap of ghost girlOn the 29th September 2011, a columnist called Ellie Ross working for The Sun newspaper published a story titled “Spook or spoof? CCTV appears to show a ‘ghost’ haunting a phone shop”.

As usual, this was a sterling example of how The Sun seems to think its readership is mostly comprised of people with severe learning difficulties, and given their past record for “accurate” reporting and continued sales, there may even be some truth to this theory. However, you could be forgiven for thinking this is also true for the reporting staff at The Sun.

Traditionally, a reporter would travel to the source of the news, or perhaps have a contact list of people to feed them snippets of useful information. They would then spend some time fact checking, cross referencing and gathering supporting evidence before releasing a story. However, all you need to do now is have access to a keyboard and be able to browse Youtube, and this is exactly what Ellie Ross appears to have done. She wrote:

“CCTV footage posted on YouTube appears to show the ‘ghost’ of a young girl haunting a well-known mobile phone store A spooky-looking female figure can be seen walking past a doorway at the back of the store, pausing to turn her head and look straight into the recording surveillance camera”.

Now I am sure you will have noticed by now, that she has given herself a journalistic “out” by posing the title of the story as a question, in case she gets “rumbled”. (Btw consider yourself “rumbled”) However we will ignore that for now…

The “well known mobile phone store” is clearly identified as “Phones 4U” by the internal advertising in the store. At the back of the store, there appears to be a doorway partially obscured by shadows. The figure of what looks like a child in blouson sleeves appears momentarily, stops, turns to look in the general direction of the security camera, and then fades from view.

It never ceases to amaze me, how these ever elusive ghosts never seem to fail to perform for the cameras at every given opportunity. Ellie continues:

“The opening credits state that today’s shop was “built on the site of a Victorian orphanage” — suggesting that the ‘spirit’ is one of its dead orphans”.

I do hope nobody is too surprised that The Sun has descended like a right wing vulture to pick on the corpse of a long dead child, simply to sell “newspapers”. Regardless, here is the video of the alleged event.

The video clip on Youtube that Ellie found was titled “Ghost caught on camera” (pioneering title I thought). The uploader, an individual with the pseudonym “Tushae” uploaded this video on the 26th September 2011. A full three days before The Sun picked up the story.

Tushae wrote a small description of the video:

“GHOST CAUGHT ON CAMERA!!! A mate just sent me this, didn’t want to put it up. YOU HAVE TO SEE THIS!!!! He showed it to some experts but they can’t explain it then found out his shop was built on Victorian orphanage called the yorkshire orphan asylum. THIS IS SOOOOO FREAKY!!!!”

He later added another update:

“[update] UNBELIEVABLE! The sun has put this video on their site. My ghost caught on camera in now everywhere 😉 there must be something in it!”

Yes indeed. There must be “something” in it. Let us see exactly what that “something” is.

Just prior to the video, there is an edited section designed to provide additional background details. It states:

“A ghostly figure was caught on CCTV where I work. This genuine footage, which has been examined by experts. They were unable to provide any answers. I later discovered the shop was built on the site of a Victorian orphanage”.

This introduction seems to be from the person who sent the original video to Tushae. We know this because it states that it was taken in their place of work, and Tushae claims the video was forwarded to him by a friend. This “friend” claims the video was examined by “experts” and yet there is no mention of who these people are, or indeed which field their expertise lies in. This “friend” also claims he later found out the store was built on the site of a Victorian Orphanage. One would have to ask how? Perhaps they are also an amateur historian?

NB:

I can find no historical link to any Orphanage with that name. The only two Orphanages I can find in Yorkshire from the Victorian period are the Hull Seaman’s and General Orphan Asylum, and the Port of Hull Society and Orphan House. There may have been others at the time. Perhaps one of our readers is an avid amateur historian? If so, please contact us, so we can amend these details at a later date. This section does not apply to the person who submitted the original video.

Ellie Ross provides the name Andrew Dasilva in relation to this story. This may be the given name of Tushae, or even his friend (the originator). It is not stated implicitly who Andrew Dasilva actually is.

Ellie adds:

“But this viral spook could well be the work of pranksters using special effects”.

That is indeed a possibility. In fact, using applications like ‘Adobe After Effects’, it becomes incredibly easy. Here is an example of how that is possible from Youtube user chrisftw92. I believe the “ghost” has been replaced with Hank Hill from the Mike Judge series “King of the Hill”?

A few things bothered me about this video. The higher than usual production values. The over used preamble. The textual effects. The high quality soundtrack. The replay. The zoom. The clarity of the “apparition” in the final frame…

It did not seem to be a typically unusual video that somebody has passed around for further opinions. It seemed too refined and planned. From the footage and effects, and finally to the press release. I decided to dig a little further.

I was also surprised to find this video of the Phones 4U “ghost” had gone viral. Usually, when a video goes viral (self replicating) it simply means it has become very popular, often copied and parodied until it becomes an overused stale meme. It is a bit of a gamble for the originators of such videos, as only a few finally become viral. Undoubtedly, these “viral videos” certainly are “attention grabbing”, and that is why they are also often used by advertising agencies as part of an ad campaign. Which got me thinking “what if”?

After researching the phones 4u and advertisements, I discovered that there was a connection.

It would seem that Phones 4U are clients of a company called Adam & Eve.

Adam & Eve were awarded Campaign Agency of the Year 2010 and Marketing Agency of the year 2010.

It makes sense that a large company like phones 4U would employ the services of such a company to boost sales, or to promote a new product. In fact the ad slogan (strap line) for this particular campaign is “Missing Our Deals Will Haunt You“.

It turns out that Phones 4U hired the Adam and Eve agency to promote a new mobile phone. The new phone I have identified is The Samsung Tocco Icon. They are advertising it as “only £59.95 on Pay As You Go”. The campaign is costing a massive £5.2/3m, and is geared for the pre Christmas rush.

The adverts all revolve around ghosts and zombies, stalking people, cornering them, and then announcing the sales pitch they could have had. It’s all very silly, and in good fun. The campaign consists of teasers, press releases, radio coverage and digital promotions. The campaign is also due also be promoted in store.

The adverts were created by Aidan McClure and Laurent Simon, and were directed by Garth Jennings through the production company Hammer & Tongs. You may remember Hammer & Tongs are credited with directing the movie version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

In fact on the phones4u Youtube channel, you can see one of these ghost adverts right now.

Do you recognise the girl?

Addendum:

Now the really odd thing about this campaign is that this information was released on the 28 September 2011. That is two days after Tushae uploaded his Youtube video, and one day before The Sun ran with this story. One can only assume that Tushae is working for a creative ad agency, or was leaked the footage by a creative ad agency, and this may mean The Sun is using this to secretly promote Phones 4U. I do not know if this is true, but it certainly looks that way. Adverts disguised as news? I am sure Michael Marshall of the Merseyside Skeptics would have something to say about that…

Bob Dezon.
October 2nd 2011

A new kind of bogeyman?

There seems to be a new bogeyman in town, stalking the dreams and nightmares of those unlucky enough to draw his attention. Faceless, shadowy and with few weaknesses, only madness and a slow death awaits those who would stand in the way of whatever ancient, unfathomable mission drives him onward to destroy adults and consume children alike. Tall, slim, and wearing an old fashioned black suit, he uses his tentacle-like fingers and elasticated arms to draw his victims into a final, horrific embrace before snatching them away never to be seen again. He is the Slender Man, and not only has he has been cutting an ever widening path of destruction across the world wide web in recent years, but it now seems that he has made the leap to the real world, much like that other urban legend, the Shadow People, did before him, and is currently being experienced by people who are supposedly unaware that his origins as a completely fictional pseudo-entity.

Read the rest of this entry

The Paracorder

Originally written for the Righteous Indignation Podcast

This is going to be a tricky interview to follow for readers as it was conducted in two parts. I was originally meant to conduct this interview via Skype but due to power outages at the other end of the line and technical difficulties on my part delaying things, this wasn’t possible. Due to clashing schedules we instead decided to pass the Q&A back and forth via email. Due to the amount of questions I had, I split them into two.

The first set were sent across, the answers received, and then the second set off in response to the answers received in the first set.  Unfortunately the second set of questions remains unanswered.  Firstly I should explain what the interview was about and why I asked Al for an interview.

I was linked to the website of the Paracorder667 by a fellow BARsoc member a while ago when they pointed out that the claims were quite interesting and grand.  The gadget is just one of many sold by the US company Moditronic that they claim can help you to detect ghosts. In fact, one of the first things you read when you visit the Paracorder667 website is:

ENERGIZES AND DETECTS GHOSTS ! EASY TO USE ! PACKED WITH TECHNOLOGY !”

 Energises ghosts? How do they know how to do that? What with? How does it work? I needed to know. The rest of the site from which the $89/£56 gadget is sold is also filled with some rather impressive and bold claims, none more so than those on the ‘scientific evidence’ page. Read the rest of this entry