Tag Archives: Ghosts

Countdown to Halloween:Haunted Mine

As some of you probably already know, I am highly skeptical of most ghost videos on YouTube. Occasionally you do find a gem or two that provides some genuine scary or at least spooky images. These two about a guy who explores old abandoned mines caught my eye. Most of the time when exploring these mines nothing happens. His videos reveal a lot about these old mines and what they used to do. But when exploring one particular mine in Nevada, something weird did happen on the first visit. And then on the second visit towards the end something weird also happens. In the first one, old chains are hanging in the entry area. They were once used to support the platform that moved ore out. One in the rear seems to be moving unusually as if it is being deliberately moved. Of course it might be the result of vibrations caused by walking around the mine or a microquake. The second one appears to have a voice at the end and a what sounds like a French police siren. One likely possibility is that the camera, which records sounds, picked up a transmission that had nothing to do with the mine. Or it could be someone was pranking the guy. Some have suggested perhaps someone lives in that mine and created that message to scare people away. There is also another possibility: that it is all faked to create buzz. Whatever it might me, the videos are fun to watch and appropriate for the Halloween season.

The Ghosts of YouTube

Halloween season is a good time to check out the ghosts of YouTube, which is really watching videos that claim to show supernatural activity. There are a lot of these videos, some first person and others presented in a documentary style. Some are spooky and sometimes scary. Sometimes a ghost is seen and other times is of the poltergeist variety. Since we are limited by what is shown, and cannot verify the circumstances of the incident, one must be cautious in accepting them as truth. It is very easy to post images that look real but are not.

Consider Slender Man , a fictional character created by Eric Knudsen who posted them under the name of  Victor Surge in the Something Awful forum. It became wildly popular and fed into the Shadow Men stories that you read in ghost forums or hear on radio shows like Coast To Coast AM with George Noory. Another one I viewed appeared to have an office being ransacked by an invisible entity. Chairs were moved, file cabinets opened and closed, in basket contents tossed on floor and doors being closed. Except nothing shown could be proven as supernatural. Special effects people have been doing this stuff for years in movies and tv shows.

One of the more popular videos concerns a screaming ghost at a hotel. Our point of view are security cameras and we hear the voice of someone talking to another party about screaming sounds coming from a room no one is occupying. So a man is dispatched to check it out. We see him exit the elevator and head towards the room. Not only does he hear the screams, but we do as well. Which is odd since the security cameras have no microphones, so we must be hearing them from the man outside the room. His communication device looks like a standard hand-held device which requires you to press a button to talk. He might be pushing the button to allow us to listen but we cannot really hear what he is saying as the dispatcher is relaying what the person is saying to another party. The room is supposed to be empty and screams are coming from it. At this point you have no idea what is on the other side of the door. It could be someone depressed, in a state of inebriation, or someone high on drugs. The dispatcher advises the man to wait and call the police, which is the sensible course of action here.

For reasons unexplained, the man enters the room anyway using a flashlight. Now why did he not turn on the lights? Some speculate he could not do that as the room key activates the lights. Even if that were true, that would be reason to wait for the police to arrive. You have no idea what is in there. The reason he enters the room is obvious: there is nothing in the room nor any sounds to frighten him. If he felt threatened in any way, he would wait for police. As it turns out the room has been trashed: carpets slashed, furniture tossed, and a shower running. We see a silhouette of something that could be a ghost exit the room and turn left. A light flickers on the right but not in the corridor where the entity is moving down. It looks like someone used the room for an illegal party, something hotels and motels deal with a lot.  And why would a ghost bother to rip up a room in the first place? In the end you are left with more questions than answers and likely the film is an amateur attempt at showing a ghost (a grade d production) on film.

There is another that claims a poltergeist has scared a dog and man. The man finds one of his dogs cowering under the bed and later hears a crashing noise coming from the attic. He investigates and finds something or someone has been going through his stuff. He puts down his camera and walks around. A large can sitting on luggage topples over and he runs away leaving his camera behind. The lights go out and then we see a motion, likely a gloved hand, striking the can. Poltergeist? Not likely. Using night vision is popular too since it allows you to see things that cannot normally be seen in the dark because it amplifies light from the lower end of the spectrum. So naturally a ghost might be seen except the one I saw appeared as a black object (an image of a woman in 19th or early 20th century clothes). While everything else was amplified, the apparition appeared as a black image being superimposed on the night vision image, which made me suspect it was a fraud.

Not everything is a fraud, some purported images can be nothing more than tricks of light, dust particles, and sometimes our desire to find a ghost. In other words we see something we do not understand and think it might be ghostly. Perhaps it or is not. I have no idea whether ghosts are real or not but one must carefully examine evidence and exclude everything plausible to end up believing it was a ghost. Ghost hunters love to go to houses, cemeteries, and other places to find ghosts. And they often claim they do. Except as Paul McCaffrey notes in Skeptical Briefs*, most do not use the proper scientific method. In his study of an alleged haunted Harper’s Mansion in Australia, the team spent a lot of time examining the environmental conditions over a longer period of time than most ghost hunters do. This allowed them to have a baseline of what is normal for the house and what would stand out. They had teams check out everything, cameras to record movement, sensors to detect changes in temperature. The house was made secure so no one could enter or leave during the tests and drapes closed. They did this for four months. And while there were times that could have shown something out of the ordinary, examination of the audio and video data did not find evidence of supernatural activity. There were no unexplained disturbances on the audio or visual recordings, Unusual noise often turned out to be something outside like a car, dog, people talking, footsteps, or wood cracking.

So in the end the ghosts of YouTube can be fun and scary too watch, just remember that a lot of it is just entertainment. Especially the ones that say they are true.

*The Harper’s Mansion Ghost Study (Paul McCaffrey, Skeptical Briefs, Newsletter of the Committer For Skeptical Inquiry,Vol. 24 No. 3, Fall 2014)

Countdown To Halloween#2

Exploring haunted houses to find ghosts is often done by so-called paranormal teams fitted out with all kinds of special gear. Not to be outdone,the Muppet Labs has gone mobile to prove the existence of ghosts. And Beaker, the ever faithful assistant, is sent into a haunted house while the doctor in charge is safely outside in the mobile lab. And now the story of that adventure….

Friday Mailbag

Every once in while I like to go through search engine terms and occasional emails and toss out answers to questions.

email1. Is Titanic Switch Theory True?
The short answer: no. This particular conspiracy theory has been out there for a long time. It has been resurrected from time to time but once Titanic was found, it was easy to disprove. While both ships had similarities, there were some important differences that were easy to spot. Plus to switch ships would require a level of secrecy that would be nearly impossible to pull off.

2. Did Loraine Allison die on Titanic?

3. Why Did Loraine Allison Die?
At one point both mother and daughter were on a lifeboat but the mother choose to get off to find her husband. She also was trying to find baby Trevor.  So both parents died along with Allison.

4. Is Titanic II Really Going To Be Built?
Quite likely. It has big money behind it with Clive Palmer, a Chinese shipyard that will build it, and plans for its construction and fitting out being done. It also being supported by the Chinese government (not by money as far as I know but that is possible)for tourism and propaganda use. There is a reason they are building a Titanic simulator in a landlocked province. They want not only Chinese tourists but ones from all over the world as well.

5. (Battlestar Galactica)What are the differences in characters between old and new show?
The original show characters had a more upbeat tone and generally likable. The new version made the characters dark and in many cases unlikable. One thing I heard on various boards and commentaries on season 3 and later season 4 is the characters had gotten so unlikeable that perhaps the Cylons ought to wipe them out! Take the case of Colonel Tigh. On the original show he was tough but fair second in command to Commander Adama. The new show took its cue from In Harm’s Way in which a character played by Kirk Douglas drank too much, had a wife cheating on him (she dies with her lover at Pearl Harbor), and much later commits rape. Saul Tigh is loyal to Adama but drinks too much, gets into fights with junior officers like Starbuck, often questions the judgment of his commanding officer and junior officers, is part of a secret posse that kills those who collaborated with the Cylons on New Caprica, and kills his wife when he discovers she handed vital information over to the Cylons. That pretty much shows the stark difference in character depictions between the two shows.  And why I think people began to dislike such characters.

6. Did some sort of lunar event make Titanic sink?
There are those that speculate that a combination of things may have contributed to having more ice floating around at the time and making it difficult to see Titanic on the horizon. Such conjectures have some basis in fact but whether they are true or not is still up for debate.

7. Was Titanic really British owned?
Some still try to make the claim the United States had no legal jurisdiction to hear the salvage case on RMS Titanic. They generally cite two facts. One that RMS Titanic is a British registered ship flying the British flag. Second is that the company that owned it, White Star Line, was a British company though a subsidiary of International Mercantile & Marine (IP), an American holding company that was bankrolled by J.P.Morgan & Co. They tend to point out that because the ownership was not direct but through either a holding company or some other creation that RMS Titanic cannot be said to be an American owned ship. An interesting but ultimately fruitless argument. The ultimate owner of White Star Line was an American company, even if it did not exercise direct day-to-day operational control.

8. You really do not believe in ghosts do you?
I have no idea whether they exist or not but when studying possible hauntings one must look rationally at the facts. It is easy to be fooled by sights, sounds, and odors we cannot understand. Also the power of suggestion often comes into play when someone says it is a possible haunted exhibit. One must first gather evidence from people, examine carefully the place where it allegedly occurs, and test possible explanations. Sometimes it is easy and other times takes a bit of detective work to find out why you hear strange noises from the basement (a boiler not working right) or the sound of a child crying from an empty home or open structure (kittens mewing can sound like babies when the conditions are right), or if things are suddenly moving around (often surveillance reveals someone moving things about or vibrations cause things fall from shelves).

That’s all for now!

Ghostly Halifax

The Guelph Mercury  reports that those seeking ghosts in Halifax will not be disappointed. A restaurant that once was a mortuary and served some of Titanic’s victims and those of the 1917 Halifax Explosion, is haunted. The restaurant owner claims cutlery has been moved, disembodied voices are heard, and shadowy figures seen. There is even a report that ghosts texted the word death.

A ghostly silhouette is sometimes seen at an upper window at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, a brewery is haunted by its old brewmaster, a fiery ghost ship is claimed to have been seen was well.

I like a good ghost story but generally find more mundane explanations for hauntings. It has become a business of sorts in many places to offer tours and stay in places where ghosts are supposed to roam. Even the local Titanic exhibit is not immune. There are claims people “sense” Titanic victims when they are visiting the museum. Stories of sightings are sometimes just that, stories written down long ago and then passed down. Suspected cases of poltergeist activity are often solved by hidden cameras that show items being moved by people.

So go visit Halifax but not for the ghosts.  And have a good time!

Source: Guelph Mercury, Ghostly Halifax, 21 Aug 2011

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Ghostly Titanic?

This story did not come out on Halloween, which would have been fitting considering the subject. According to Ozarks First the Wichita Paranormal Research Society  (WPRS) recently examined the Titanic Museum in Branson for signs of paranormal activity. Said founder Shane Elliot, “I think there’s some really interesting claims here.” The claims are of apparitions being seen, ghostly voices and other weird things.

WPRS is investigating and used all kinds of monitoring equipment. According to the news account, “WPRS spent about six hours investigating the museum. Every person of the seven member team had some experience with voices or shadows.” This vague tease is likely a precursor that, of course, the exhibit is haunted. The findings, one suspects, will get some print space in the local newspaper and likely a mention on television (and quite possibly a segment on one of those television ghost hunter shows).

One thing I have learned from reading and studying on the paranormal is how easy it is to fool ourselves. All kinds of things can make us believe we are seeing or hearing things we attribute to the supernatural but are not. Distant voices or sounds can sometimes be from air vents or pipes. The normal contraction of wood (caused by heating up and cooling down) can sometimes be alarming with loud popping sounds. I once thought I heard someone walking about upstairs in the living room in my father’s house but no one was there. It was caused by the growing coldness of the night and the wooden floorboards contracting.

We can be easily fooled by our senses and the power of suggestion. Hopefully the ghost hunters will bear that in mind in tracking down the “ghosts” that allegedly hang around the exhibit.