Ghost Hunters TV Show – Fake?

“Is Ghost Hunters TV show a fake?” “Are the Ghost Hunters fake?” “Did TAPS fake their Halloween 2008 show?”

Grant's jacket tuggedStarting the first of November, 2008, the emails poured in. Each of them asked me questions like those.

I was going to ignore them, but similar emails continued to flood my in-box.

So, here’s my answer.

I’ve looked at the Ghost Hunters TV show footage on YouTube and studied it frame-by-frame.  I also listened closely to the audio, where a voice clearly says, “You’re not supposed to be here.”

Here’s my analysis.

“YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE”

That voice is alarmingly clear.  During my own ghost hunts, I’ve never heard anything that audibly crisp or like someone was right there, saying it.

Then again, I rarely hear things audibly when I’m conducting research.  I rarely capture any EVP, either.

Audio is not one of my stronger areas.

However, Jason and Grant have documented increasingly clear EVPs during their research.

In my experience, this seems to be a skill — perhaps related to rapport with the spirits — and most ghost researchers improve as they investigate a variety of sites.

So, while this was a very unusual and audible voice, I think it’s possible in a profoundly haunted setting… and that’s what they chose for their Halloween 2008 show.

Also, at Jason’s MySpace blog, he pointed out that the voice was so clear, he asked if someone had said anything.

(If anything irks me about Jason, it’s that he tends to be aggressively skeptical.  This show was no exception.)

Likewise, it looked to me as if Grant was asking the producers if they were in the wrong location… if they weren’t actually supposed to be where they were at that moment.

So, I don’t think that Jason, Grant or the TAPS team faked the voice.  I also trust the integrity of the SciFi channel.

There are other, natural explanations, but I don’t think that Jason, Grant or the SciFi channel set this up.

GRANT’S JACKET PULLED

The second controversial moment was the tug on Grant’s jacket… if it was that.

If you watch the video, frame by frame, you’ll see that the collar moves oddly just before Grant stumbles backwards.

However, the fishing line explanation doesn’t work.  I’d expect to see the line highlighted by the cameras, or a shadow on the wall when the cameras moved in.  It’s possible to do that on a recorded show, and use CGI to cover it.

However, on a live show, the production company couldn’t take that chance.

Here’s a bigger problem with the fishing line explanation: Grant’s jacket was open at the neck.  If line had pulled on his jacket enough to throw him off balance, it would have jerked the neck opening of the jacket as it pulled him backwards, slightly choking him.

In my opinion, Grant perceived it as just his jacket, but he was actually forced backwards by something else.  The only visual manifestation — besides Grant stumbling — was the movement at the collar a split second before he stepped backwards.

I can’t explain what happened.  I have no idea, and can’t even guess.

Strange things occur in haunted places.  That’s one reason we keep investigating them: We’re looking for explanations, but we often leave with more (and new) questions than answers.

The jacket tug baffles me.

NOT ENOUGH REACTION?

Several people have claimed that Grant’s body language, tone of voice, or other cues “give away” that he was faking the whole thing.

That’s not very good evidence of a hoax.

Anyone who has been on real ghost hunts knows that we get used to odd things happening. The “usual” anomalies stop surprising us after awhile. (This may be another reason why the manifestations become increasingly dramatic around experienced ghost hunters.)

But, if you’ve been with me on ghost hunts that turn dramatic — for example, with doors slamming repeatedly, or windows opening and closing on their own — you’ve seen me sigh and mutter, “I wish they wouldn’t do that.  It’s really annoying.”

Things that scare other people don’t even surprise experienced ghost hunters, after we’ve encountered the phenomena enough times.

So, it’s a mistake to judge the authenticity of phenomena because an experienced ghost hunter doesn’t seem startled enough.

We just don’t startle as easily as someone with less ghost hunting experience.

Grant’s reaction (or lack of it) doesn’t prove anything.

A MATTER OF INTEGRITY

Jason and Grant are my friends.  I’ve spent a lot of time with them. We’ve chatted over breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and at events and parties.  We used to exchange emails when something was of mutual concern.

In general, Grant is very honest. Usually, he looks you straight in the eye when he talks with you.

But, I have to qualify that, because I feel that Grant deliberately misled me during one conversation.

It was not an outright lie. It was something personal and had nothing to do with ghost hunting. It was about a part of the country where we’d both lived, briefly, and how he described why he was there.

A year or so later, when the truth became obvious, I asked him about it. So far, he hasn’t replied.

No, I never expected a detailed explanation. I just wanted him to admit he’d misled me, so I could say, “Sure, I get it. Just don’t do that again, okay?”

We haven’t spoken since then. I’m sad about that, because I admire him tremendously as a researcher and as a talented artist.

But, in terms of ghost hunting, I have no reason to question Grant’s integrity.

I like Jason, but he can seems an almost incorrigible skeptic.  If anything, he’s likely to trivialize evidence that the rest of us point to as proof of a haunting.

It seems absurd to think that he’d be part of a hoax. That’d be completely out of character. During an investigation – in real life – he’s the first person to be skeptical and often the loudest.

Sure, Jason has a very dry wit, but he would never compromise his own integrity as a ghost hunter, the integrity of the TAPS team, or the Ghost Hunters TV show.  That’s not his style.

If you’ve met him in real life or listened to him talk at any conference, you know that he’s rock-solid honest.

If the show’s production company said, “We want you to fake this,” Jason would reply, “I’d quit rather than do that.”

And, he would.

On the show, I can’t think of any reason for Grant and Jason to compromise their integrity.  None whatsoever.

DID IT HAPPEN?

It’s true.  Some very odd things seemed to happen during the Ghost Hunters TV show on Halloween 2008.

Could they have been faked?

Yes, the voice might have come from a very well hidden microphone.  But — if that voice was part of a hoax — I’m confident that Jason, Grant and the SciFi channel weren’t aware of it.

I wasn’t there to know what direction the voice came from, and what it was like. All I can evaluate is what I saw on the Ghost Hunters TV show… and frankly, that’s not enough information for me to judge.

I’ve said it often: It’s a mistake to judge what is (and isn’t) a real haunting, a real ghost photo or real EVP  unless you were there.

The incident with Grant’s jacket is another issue altogether.  It couldn’t have been faked without Grant’s knowledge.

All in all, I trust Jason and Grant.  They say that they didn’t fake anything on the show, and I believe them.

But, I’m also aware that many people like a “good scare” on Halloween, and — starting the very next morning — they want to assure themselves that the whole thing wasn’t real, and scary things don’t wait for them in the darkness.

I think they’re the loudest detractors of the Halloween 2008 Ghost Hunters TV show.

I have nothing to prove, one way or the other. My opinion is: I saw no evidence of a hoax in that TV series.

Amityville Horror, NY – Some Thoughts About It

Artistic rendering of the Amityville Horror house, based on a photo by Seulatr.

Was the Amityville Horror real?

Without a doubt, parts of the story are entirely true.  In fact, reports may have understated the severity and scope of what happened at that house.

The current owners of the home insist that the house is not haunted.  Since I’ve seen how some people can — without any effort — counteract even the most intense paranormal activity, I believe the house may not seem haunted right now.

I’m equally convinced that, based solely on the murders, it’s unlikely that the house is clear of residual, ghostly energy.

Did the house retain potential ghostly or malicious energy?  Were the Lutzes telling the whole story?  I’m not sure.

This week, I watched a documentary questioning the hauntings at the ‘Amityville Horror’ house.

On one hand, I try to be very respectful of researchers’ subjective and psychic experiences.

On the other… Well, several years ago, I explored another classic “ghost story,” the Ocean-Born Mary tale, supposedly haunted by Mary Wallace.

My extensive research is described at The Truth about Ocean-Born Mary’s Ghost. Some of the historical information was true, but most of the hauntings cannot be attributed to Mary Wallace.

(That said, I’ve heard from the daughter of the psychic who went to Henniker, NH with Hans Holzer. She is confident that something haunts the famous house. I haven’t done enough research to identify who that spirit might be. We only know that it’s probably not Mary Wallace.)

Since that Henniker, NH research, I tend to be extra skeptical about sensational hauntings.

The Amityville documentary was inconclusive. Each side — believers and skeptics — maintain the truth of their claims.

I’ve been skeptical ever since I read that the Lutz family let their children sleep in the same beds where the previous residents’ children were murdered.

Was that true?  I don’t know.

As a parent, I can’t even think about doing that… even under the most compelling financial circumstances. But, it certainly increases the horror level when the story is told.

That possibility (if it is true) makes me question whether the Amityville “horror” was planned as a hoax from the start.

Oh, the interviews with Mr. & Mrs. Lutz seemed sincere and compelling. They probably believed the story (or most of it) as they told it. And, it’s a very good story.

I also believe that they could have been working with false memories, which are a volatile area of psychological study; I’m reluctant to say that anyone is lying.

Also, during the show, Ed Warren commented that ghosts are seen telepathically. I want to clarify what he was probably talking about:

In most cases, it’s rare to see a full figure, solid-looking ghost. Most of our perceptions aren’t visual… not in the way we usually see the world around us.

However, many of us have seen ghosts and briefly confused them with actual, living people. For example, I’ve seen two ghosts that looked like real people at Gilson Road Cemetery in Nashua, NH.

One of our team researchers — with a third-degree Black Belt in Karate — was so convinced that one of the Gilson Road Cemetery figures was real, he tried to physically block the figure from attacking me.

So, that ghost was not seen telepathically, but in real life and by several of us at the same time.

The Amityville documentary emphasized the importance of physical evidence. While no proof will be enough to convince a determined skeptic, it can tilt the scales when someone isn’t sure about a haunted site.

I’m still not sure about the Amityville house.   Even the police reports raise questions.

(For some time, it seemed that there was an unreported body among the victims. Later, the police said it was a filing error. That kind of dramatic mistake – in the records of an infamous case – is an anomaly in itself. I don’t know what to think of it, but it’s odd enough to be significant.)

Ghost hunting remains a subjective study until we have more proof. When the Amityville house was a sensation, ghost investigations were handled very differently from today’s research.

Although paranormal studies can be fascinating and personally meaningful, researchers should always collect as much evidence as possible. From EMF to EVP to ‘ghost photos’, it’s key to document everything that provides proof of anomalies in haunted settings.

As the Amityville house reminds us, there may not be an opportunity to collect additional data, later.