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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

How to make a poltergeist

Today I have been flooded with links from people that report to the same story on numerous news websites. It’s the story about the Manning family who claim they are being harrassed by a poltergeist.

The activity is reported as follows:

Ashtrays have been flung through the air and they once came home to find their dog lying motionless at the bottom of the stairs, with serious injuries. Vets said it was as if their pet, who later died, had been pushed down the stairs in their home.

And if you were thinking there’s no such thing as ghosts – the sinister happenings have been caught on a secret camera set up by Miss Manning’s partner.

In what could be a scene from horror flick Paranormal Activity, the footage shows a chair sliding across the room as cupboard doors slam open and shut. After seeing the video, housing association Whitefriars is now helping relocate the family.

It certainly does sound siniter and scary and upon reading that there was video evidence I became intrigued. Here is the video proof:

Something didn’t see quite right about the video and I felt that the whole thing looked a bit staged. I intended to see if I could recreate the effects seen in the video when I got home later that day.

When I did arrive home I found that there was a copy of todays Metro newspaper waiting for me with a full page article on this story, it was unignorable. So, after dinner, and with the help of fellow BARsoc researcher, Sharon, we set about seeing if we could recreate the activity the video that apparently convinced a housing association to move a family into a new home.

Turns out we could. Quite easily. It was also slightly fun…(warning: contains swearing)

To create a poltergeist you will need:

1 x key ‘fob’ on extendable cord
1 x reel of fishing thread/wire
1 x roll of sellotape
1 x pair of scissors
a bit of imagination

We didn’t have fishing wire available and only had black cotton to hand (which is why you can see it if you know where to look).This also took us about fifteen minutes to do – had we put more effort in it could have been a much smoother operation.

I also made a creative decision at the last second and decided to throw the chair for dramatic effect. I didn’t take into account that Sharons foot might be in the way. You can sort of see me panicking as I try to pull it off of her foot (thus why you see the black thread waving around so much).

So, in summary, we find it rather confusing that the family would have such a dodgy video attached to their story if they had really, sincerely, honestly had the experiences they claim to. It smacks of being a case of people trying to move house and using the poltergeist idea to make it happen.

The 5 Worst Ghosts of 2010

It’s fair to say that some of the ghost stories that grace the newspapers and news websites often leave the more rationally minded of us staring at our screens with sheer horror. Horrified, not by the latest ‘spectres’ to have been caught on camera or film, but by the fact that anyone could have thought what was caught was news worthy.

BARsoc researchers have touched upon such news stories in past articles and will continue to do so throughout 2011, but here at BARsoc HQ* we thought it would be fun to look back at the ghost stories covered by the media through 2010 and choose the 5 that made us weep the most. Again, not weep with horror, but with despair, despair that these ghosts made the news and gained so much attention and helped to mock the field of paranormal research (and in turn, people like us!)

So, behold!

The 5 Worst Ghosts of 2010

#5 – The Savannah Cemetery Ghost


This video came to our attention in November and it is claimed that a ‘ghost child’ can be seen running through the Colonial Park Cemetery in Savannah Georgia. The image is seen running in the distance past some tombstones. We then see some object, which many think is also the ghost, shoot up a tree and moments later drop down.

It’s difficult to tell what could be the cause of the supposed ghost, but we all agree at BARsoc HQ* that this probably, in all reality, isn’t a ghost. It’s too vague because of the distance between the supposed ghost and the camera, as well as the fact that the person shooting the film didn’t bother to go towards the object to investigate.

Jumping to the conclusion that something odd, or something that cannot be explained must be a ghost is quite a leap of logic and doesn’t make sense because we can’t actually be sure of what a ghost is – after all, there is no testable definition of what a ghost is.

So, although we cannot explain away what the ghost in this video could be, we’ve included it because of the assumptions being made and the questions not answered by people making wild claims.

#4 – The Gwyrch Castle Ghost

It’s likely that at some point in 2010 you saw this ghost photo, if not, lucky you. The photo was taken by Mr. Kevin Horkin who claimed he did not notice the spooky figure while taking the shot and that it was only when he had downloaded the photos that he noticed it. Building the oddness to this tale, he claimed that the spot in which the girl is standing in the photo is a place in the building where it is impossible to stand.

The figure appears to be on the first floor, in what used to be a banquet hall where the floor crumbled away years ago, meaning there is nothing for a person to stand on. Weird, right?

Until you see this photo that shows a floor…

This is where the doubt started to set in for many who were following this particular story, Why lie about there not being a floor when there is? It may have been a simple mistake that Kevin Horkin made but, if we were going to the newspaper with a ghost photo (which is likely…) we’d make sure we had all the details first to avoid making such a mistake and looking a bit suspect.

After some digging it turned out that Kevin Horkin is the managing director of a ‘Psychic Management’ company in the U.K. called Parallel Management. According to the company’s website:

‘His wealth of experience encompasses expertise in artist management, events management, sponsorships, public relations, media relations, marketing and artist liaison.’

It gets even better because at the time the photo was taken and released, he and his team were scouting different locations for a “Psychic retreat”. In the Lancashine Telegraph an article reports how:

A RIBBLE Valley businessman is bidding to buy a huge castle to open Britain’s first ‘psychic school of excellence’. Clitheroe-based Kevin Horkin has put in an offer of £850,000 to buy the derelict Grade I-listed Gwrych Castle in Abergele, North Wales.

Mr Horkin, who owns psychic management company Parallel, wants to spend ’several millions’ renovating the 19th century castle, installing a hotel and facilities for psychics to connect with the spiritual world.

During an 18-month search for a base of psychic school of excellence, Mr Horkin and his staff at Parallel, based in Waddington Road, Clitheroe, visited around 20 houses and castles before deciding on Gwrych.

Mr Horkin added: “It is something different. There’s a risk with opening it but I just feel strongly about it.

“I love the place and I feel that people will love it too. There’s just something about it.”

Earlier this week, Mr Horkin revealed how a ghostly image had shown up on mobile phone photographs he took at Gwrych Castle.

What a big fat coincidence… right? Right guys? …guys?

#3 – The Wolfe Pub Ghost Video

You didn’t see this ghost video? WHERE WERE YOU?!

The Wolfe Pub in Little Dockray, Cumbria used to be a funeral parlour according to the landlord which is why it is haunted. Which makes sense… possibly.

The 35-second sequence recorded by a CCTV camera shows a supposed apparition that descends through the ceiling of the room. Numerous newspaper articles (like this one) claim the apparition then polishes a table before zooming upwards and going back through the ceiling – momentarily assuming the likeness of a face which is pretty spooky stuff!

Well, no, actually, it’s not spooky because it is a fly on the lens of the CCTV camera that is out of focus. See:

If you watch the video it’s really easy to see how it is a fly, you can even see the wings moving. The thing that makes this whole case a little frustrating is the claim that strange happenings have also been caught on the CCTV of the travel agents next door to the pub, such as a computer turning itself on, a computer mouse being thrown from a desk and a sign in the window falling down. Yet we’re just expected to believe that this happened because the footage has never been supplied.

When you add the anecdotes to the fly in the video it doesn’t make a convincing ghost story really, does it? Our theory is that the landlord is either credulous, or trying to raise the number of people who walk through his door – or both.

Video:

#2 – The Pint Glass Poltergeist

The New Inn, Gloucestershire, made the headlines earlier this year when an unattended pint of beer was caught on CCTV sliding off of a table all on its own, which is pretty impressive at first glance.

However, the story gets pretty suspicious, pretty fast. The video was featured on The Sun Newspaper website where it quoted Landlord Mark Cooke:

“I’d heard all these stories before we arrived and was pretty sceptical, like most people.But the moving pint was something else. When I saw it on the CCTV it made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. You just can’t explain it — the table’s dead steady, the floor’s not uneven, and no-one’s near it.”

We disagree with Mark because there are several ways in which a glass can slide from a table on its own. Those who drink alcohol, and more specifically beer will know that sometimes the pint glass in which your drink is served is wet from overspill at the pump. Sometimes different surfaces in pubs are also wet because they’ve had wet glasses on them.

In the video you can clearly see the customer take a full pint to the table where an empty pint glass is standing, chances are that the empty pint glass was wet (and thus, the table was slippery) and the new pint glass was wet which could have resulted in the glass sliding off of the surface – especially as the glass isn’t very far from the edge.

We also don’t know if the pub is on a slight hill or if the table was sloped/wobbly, Mark says that it isn’t, but we’re not quite ready just to accept that as a fact because people do tend to over exaggerate in such stories to make things seem a bit stranger than they actually are.

Another cause could be trickery, and numerous people have commented that the person sitting at the back of the room, to the right  in the video happens to move their hand just as the glass falls. This could be a coincidence and to make a fake ghost video people normally need to have a motive.

Enter ‘Gloucester Ghost Walks’ run by the ‘Gloucester Active Paranormal Society’ who have been conducting paranormal investigations at the premises in question for a while. In fact, a member of the team was actually in the bar when the glass fell off of the table. They also charge £25 for a ticket to one of their paranormal events at the pub in question.

We cannot be sure that it is a case of trickery, but this certainly made us rather cynical of the situation and video. Media coverage of this venue, the team and their ghost events would certainly be good for business…

Something like this would be easy to set up with a bit of wire and as it stands it is more likely that this alleged poltergeist is actually just the work of a slippery surface, a wet glass and gravity, or some sneaky tricksters with some wire.

#1 – The Dorset County Museum Ghost

If you have been following BARsoc since we were formed earlier this year then chances are that you knew this would be the case we put in 1st place. It was the first story that we really took to pieces and explored. You can read our entire article on the story here.

It started when this story was featured on the BBC website claiming that:

A group of investigators from Weymouth have released the findings of their investigation into paranormal activity in Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.

They have photos which they believe to be of “hanging” Judge Jeffreys and local fossil collector Mary Anning in the museum’s main hall.

The article also states at one point that the fundraising officer for the museum, Nel Duke, is “unconvinced” that the place is haunted.

The team in question were ‘The P.I.T08’. The first thing that we noticed was that the image featured in the BBC article was heavily cropped. A cropped image provides little context for what it is we are looking at. Realistically it could be anything at all, from an out of focus light, to a drop of water on a sheet of glass. We contacted “The P.I.T.” to ask for the full uncropped version of the image and they kindly obliged.

We showed the photo to most of the members of BARsoc who all reached the same conclusion. The ‘ghost’ was simply an illusion caused by light reflection – the cropped picture used in the newspaper articles simply didn’t show the source of the reflection – it emphasised something that shouldn’t have been emphasised at all.

The images taken that night at the Dorset County Museum, are simply reflections of the camera flash, on a glass fronted display case/mirrored surface. You can clearly see this display case illuminated by the flash, to the north position of the “anomaly”.

We even managed to find other photos that showed the case the camera flash was reflected off, and it wasn’t very hard to do. It would also be safe to presume that people who worked at the museum would know that the display case was there which makes it odd that they would fail to mention this possibility, it may have been an oversight though and we always like to give people the benefit of doubt.

We were told by Steve from the P.I.T that The BBC had contacted the museum after seeing the photos on the P.I.T website and that the museum had then put them in touch with the team. In an email to us he said:

“I can confirm that the P.I.T as a whole do not  state these photos are paranormal and only after trying to prove they where not  did we as a team ‘stamp’ them as ‘possibly paranormal’. As a team we did not go to the press with it and instead quietly released the images on our website for review by its users. The BBC contacted the Museum directly who then gave the story and passed the P.I.Ts details.”

Something didn’t sit quite right with this whole situation, it didn’t make sense to us at BARsoc HQ* that a museum where staff are unconvinced it is haunted would be so keen to get such a story published by the BBC. As far we could tell there was nothing to gain financially other than a slight raise in the number of visitors who might be interested in visiting a haunted location.

However that didn’t seem likely to us after a BARsoc member phoned the museum and they wouldn’t comment about what happened or what activity had been witnessed by staff members, that just didn’t seem right for a place that was happy for news websites to feature the ghost photo taken by a paranormal team and wanted to attract people by using their supposed ghost.

It all clicked into place though about a month after our article on the case was published when Steve, the member of P.I.T that we had been in communication with posted a comment on the article. You could say that ‘the penny dropped’.

The Dorest County Museum are now charging £300 for paranormal teams to enter the building to conduct paranormal investigations to try to find the ghost that was in a photo that the British Anomalistic Research Society showed was actually just an illusion caused by a light reflection.

Yep. You can see why this made the #1 spot on our list.

…and there you have it.

The worst 5 Ghosts in 2010 according to BARsoc. It’s likely that you might have a different ghost related news item in mind that you thought should have made the list, and it was difficult to choose which ones to feature. Why not link to your own bad ghost story as a comment (it has to be a 2010 story).

The one downside to news articles that report ghost stories without any critical thought is that is makes it easy for such avenues of publicity to be abused by those who have something to gain from having a ghost at their premesis.It also makes the paranormal research field look a bit daft, which in all reality, doesn’t need any help in doing so.

Happy new year!

*no really, we have a HQ. Maybe.

Lights in Wiltshire skies

The Wiltshire Times have reported on numerous sightings over Wiltshire of odd lights in the sky. The lights are describes as:

“Bright orange lights in the sky over Trowbridge and Melksham…”

“-in the sky was a cluster of orange lights…”

“-over Salisbury Plain before gradually moving eastwards and fading into one light…”

“-in the sky were five bright large orange round balls of light.”

All of these descriptions suggest that the lights seen in the sky were nothing more than “Chinese lanterns”. Many people who witness such lights in the sky who are then told they saw nothing but lanterns say they know it wasn’t lanterns and know what they saw.

The fact is though that when looking at the sky it is really difficult to judge the speed, distance or size of an object moving across the sky. It’s similar to watching planes flying above us. From some angles they move quite quickly, but view them from other angles and they look like they’re not moving at all.

Here is a video of one chinese lantern let off by friend of mine from their garden. Their confusion is acting as they had just lit the very lantern they were viewing. In this video you will notice how the lantern doesn’t look anything like a lantern.

The article goes on to detail an account from Roger White, 67, of Imber Road, Bratton. The paper says:

“Roger White called the Wiltshire Times to say that he has seen similar lights on four occasions in the last 10 years. He said: “It started in 2000 when I was working in Southwick.

“I got the feeling that something was watching me so I turned round and there was an orange orb. “It went behind the tree line and gradually gained height. Then in November last year I saw an orange orb along the West Ashton to Trowbridge road. It went towards Trowbridge and then just disappeared.

Also on Christmas Eve last year I took the dog into the back garden and there was a massive orb pulsating and then it just blinked out. A week later I was in my garden again facing north and another orb shot off to the west.”

It’s very likely that the objects Roger saw were lanterns or balloons too, it’s very usual for them to just float around, not really going anywhere and then to just zip away on a current of air. Or if they disappear it’s because they’ve gotten too high or the flame has gone out.

The feeling on being watched may have been coincidental.

We’re not saying that the people who witnessed these lights didn’t see something strange, and we’re not claiming that they made anything up. It’s just very likely, from what we have witnessed and researched in the past, that these lights were simply lanterns.

Our verdict = lanterns + more uncritical journalism from the W.T.

*Video credit to Robert & Lucie Weeks