Monday, June 6, 2011

the Bent Spoon Magazine

The first two issues are out and the third is just around the corner! If you haven't already, check it out. It's completely free to download or subscribe. For more info, check the website or like us on facebook.

Monday, April 11, 2011


If the small handful of people who actually read this blog have been wondering why there's been a lack of posting going on, know that my spare time has been reassigned to a new, upcoming project.
Spoiler alert:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Beings from another dimension!

  This premise conjures up images from 1950s B movies, but seems to be quickly climbing the ranks in the paranormal community.  Originally postulated as a proposed explanation for the sporadic behavior of UFOs, most notably supported by Jaques Vallee and J. Allen Hynek as an alternative "hypothesis" to the Extraterrestrial Hypothesis. Hypothesis being a loose term and not intended in the scientific definition, being that the inter-dimensional hypothesis is not falsifiable or testable though experiment.
(Note: for more information on the continous misuse of scientific terms by the paranormal field, see Pork Rhine's article)

   This concept has been adopted by paranormal investigators, seeking a possible explanation for what they classify as Intelligent Hauntings and more commonly Shadow People. The classification of intelligent haunting refers to an interactive entity, such as a poltergeist or a demonic entity. Unlike the residual haunting, these beings are fully aware and cognizant. Shadow people (shadow men/ shadow beings/ shadow figures) are featureless silhouettes ans are typically considered "evil entities". The archetypal shadow person experience is reported at night, after waking or seen in fleeting visions in the witness' peripheral vision.  While this phenomena could be easily explained by sleep paralysis or hypnagogia, pareidolia, and even retinal detachment, paranormal investigators propose that these are living entities, entering our bedrooms at night through inter- dimensional portals or vortices. This notion, they feel, is supported by string theory, there-by making the inter- dimensional hypothesis scientific. What they fail to understand is that even if these extra dimensions exist ( there are no experiments capable of confirming these dimensions and are purely hypothetical) they are thought to be extremely small, as in possibly below the scale of quarks and strings. 
 I believe this misunderstanding lies in the term dimension itself, being confused for a parallel world instead of the measure of spacial extent, because if you consider it in the light of the correct definition, it literally makes no sense. 

   In conclusion, while it may sound pedantic, learn your terms or you won't be taken seriously.

the Water tape theory, thanks for the memory.

   Like the stone tape theory, the basic idea of the water tape theory is that  neighboring bodies of water absorb the emotional crisis energy of a traumatic event, imprinting the event in the body of water and spontaneously playing it back on repeat. While it seems possible the piezoelectric effect may be responsible for the attribution of mystical properties of crystals which may have lead to the foundation of the stone tape concept, the property of water memory is based solely on bad science.
   Originally proposed by Jacques Benveniste in 1988, Benveniste, a proponent of homeopathy, sought to explain a foundational mechanism of the practice. In an experiment involving human antibodies being diluted out of existence in water, Benveniste reported that human basophils responded as if reacting to the actual antibodies.
He is quoted stating  "It's like agitating a car key in the river, going miles downstream, extracting a few drops of water, and then starting one's car with the water." 
It should be known that these results were only found in the solution that was violently shaken during dilution.
The Results were submitted to the scientific journal Nature and were the subject of some controversy. In the following issue, a follow-up investigation was conducted by Nature editor  John Maddox and renowned skeptic James Randi. The results were found to be non repeatable, though Benveniste refused to retract the article stating that the protocol in the following investigations were not identical to his own.

Another proponent of magical water properties is Dr. Maseru Emoto who claims that thoughts or emotion can directly effect water droplets resulting in noticeable differences when the droplets are frozen, being deemed "beautiful" or "ugly". His methods and protocol are highly criticized, though Emoto openly admits that he is not a scientist.

   There are countless other pseudoscientific claims revolving around water that I could rattle off, but they most likely wouldn't bring us any closer to the the origin of the water tape theory and it's relation to residual hauntings. 
If I were to speculate, I would assume that it is merely a modification of the stone tape theory, bolstered by conformation bias. Being that water is even more abundant than quartz or limestone, finding a body of water near an alleged residual haunting if far more likely, creating an unfounded causal relationship between the two. This logical fallacy is know also as Post hoc ergo propter hoc (latin for after this, therefore because of this) and is nearly as abundant in the paranormal community as bodies of water and limestone are to tragic events. 

  Lets consider the concept. If water were capable of retaining the emotional energies produced by traumatic events, the world we live in would be cluttered by these projected playbacks. Water is run through all of our cities and houses through plumbing, there is water in the air, and the human body is 61.8% by weight. Think of it, we'd be sneezing ghosts! 

  This "theory", like most others attempting to describe the mechanisms of spirits, quickly falls apart with very little thought put to it. Let's continue to think before we "theorize".

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shadow of an Origin

In it's infancy, Shadow of a Doubt was intended to be a public access TV show, featuring paranormal clips from TV and Youtube and possible explanations plus brief bits of the history surrounding each phenomenon. I was barely begining the project when I stumbled onto Patrick H T Doyle's Haunted Hoax web series.

The project was abandoned.
Only the opening credits and two short teasers remain, the raw footage was lost in a move.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Restligeists and Stone Tapes

In the lexicon of your average ghost hunter, you'll typically find between three and five classifications of hauntings. These range from the more sensational demonic and poltergeist types to the less violent, yet still interactive intelligent hauntings and shadow people and finally, the "residual haunting" or restligeist  (essentially "residual ghost"). This type is described as a non interactive scene from the past, played on loop, like a skipping record and can be represented by visual and auditory phenomena. The mechanism suggested to support this phenomena is localized minerals such as limestone and quartz act as a recording medium capturing the emotional energy resulting from a traumatic event, typically involving death. This conjecture presumes the existence of the non-conventional emotional energy despite no evidence supporting it and no known method of measuring or detecting it. While this fact invalidates the postulate outright, I want to delve a little further into the subject in order to discover the the possible rationale behind it. 
The second factor in the stone tape hypothesis rests upon the presence of quartz and limestone, the recording medium for the "energy" to be captured and replayed. Quartz is the most common mineral found in soil and limestone is prevalent many types of architecture and is also quite common. That properties do they have in common? The presence of silica is the only relation I'm aware of beyond the fact that quartz can be found in natural cavities of limestone. Between the two, quartz seems like a likely choice due to the new age fascination with crystals. Though crystals are thought to have paranormal qualities, one true property may be the source of the mystical misconception. Crystals are known to be piezoelectric, meaning that when the crystal is compressed, it's crystal lattice deforms and disturbs the charge balance.  When the lattice is changed slightly, the charge imbalance creates a potential difference, essentially producing electricity. While this property is fascinating, it lends no credence nor supports in any way the idea that it can record moments in time.
In typical fashion of paranormal theories, this concept has been copy/ pasted so many times over that it's become unclear where it originated, but it was likely born from the 1961 book Ghost and Ghoul by Thomas Lethbridge or Peter Sasdy's teleplay the Stone Tape, the latter being responsible for the name, at least.
Since ideas such as these have been passed back and forth so frequently and been adopted and promoted by television personalities, it's very unlikely that they will be abandoned, eternally being played in loop within the closed system of the paranormal community, a stone tape itself. A parting word of advice to paranormal investigators; If you want to be taken seriously by science, take science seriously. 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Photographic trickery part 2

Apparently I need to address a comment I made in my last post in which I gave the general public too much credit. On the topic of orbs, I said,
I've been over these before in my post about spirit photography and most people wouldn't give any credence to them anyway, so I think I can skip these.

In a recent conversation with Bryan Bonner of Rocky Mountain Paranormal, he informed me of the dismaying fact that orb photos are making a come back. Now, I can explain what causes these anomalies, but the likely reply would be that the photographer can tell the difference between dust motes and a "real" spirit orb. So let me offer this; In the real world, no form of energy floats around in blobs or spheres and the only energy you might find escaping a dead person is heat. So what are these things, if not bugs, dust or moisture? Any other explanation should be considered special pleading. Some non- falsifiable idea that someone made up to perpetuate whatever belief they've created to make themselves feel good and special.

Suppose you've come across a picture that doesn't quite fit into the aforementioned categories, what can you do? First off, whatever your gut might say about it "not looking right" or if you can " just tell" carries no more weight than any paranormal proponent boasting "I know what I saw". You might not be able to identify whether a picture is legitimate or not, but there are a few tips for judging the pictures source.

First of all, be aware that any paranormal group touting that they use the scientific method in their investigative process is committing a fallacious appeal to authority and is inadvertently revealing their misunderstanding of science. This claim does not add credibility to any form of "evidence" they might offer. Remember, in order for their investigation to be a legitimate experiment, they must first form a falsifiable hypothesis. Is the existence or presence of ghosts falsifiable? No. That house of cards falls apart faster than it's being built.

Second, you should question their scrutiny of their own evidence. Many groups claim to take their photos to experts for analysis and return with what looks like a Warhol print of "photoshop detecting filters". When the picture inevitably passes this test, they can then claim that it "baffles the experts!".
 Here is an example:
You might recognize this as the motion blur picture from my previous post. This effect was created in-camera, so even if the mentioned "photoshop detecting filters" were in any way affective, they wouldn't apply to this case.
Here I have taken a Photoshopped image and run it through the same process, which is really only adjusting the levels and curves, and in no frame is it more apparent that the image was altered.
These people are trying to up- sell their evidence through lies and manipulation, appealing to so called experts, thinking that they will gain credibility, it would seem. The more people become aware of these tricks, the less they will work.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Spotting photographic and video trickery (without the technical knowledge) part 1

  First and foremost, when attempting to identify gaffed media, remember that you typically cannot prove definitively that it is a hoax without all of the information. That being said, The first step one should take is getting familiar with the main offenders. These are the most commonly presented forms of paranormal evidence.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Fool's Gambit

Like the rest of the paranormal "theories" pertaining to ghosts that I have heard, the explanation invoking the first law of thermodynamics has been regurgitated so often in the paranormal echo- chamber that I cannot trace it's origins. I have to wonder how that misappropriated notion has survived so long. Did our nation's public school fail us or is it simply a bluff given with the idea that if it sounds scientific, it's good enough?

The first law of thermodynamics or conservation of energy is often given as a possible explanation of what comprises a ghost and how it came to be. Whether this misunderstanding is what led many investigators to believe ghosts are made of "energy" or that it was given as a supportive hypothesis of the former in unknown to me and, most likely, to the claimant as well. Though the underlying concept is a pretty common one. It's the general misinterpretation of energy itself.

What is energy really? Energy is a scalar, that is, a quantity of a system's ability to produce changes or do work. In this sense, some one saying "Ghosts are just energy" would be equivalent to saying "Ghosts are just length" or any other measurable quantity. To those making the claim, are human bodies like a jar of fireflies, buzzing with a swarm of glowing, free-floating energy that escapes the moment we die?

If that were the case, then I think they'd most likely speaking of energy in the metaphysical sense. Life force, ki, prana, kundalini, or spirit is the ever-present force connecting all things, giving life, creating auras, and the base of most alternative medicine. It's also a handy reference to explain anything paranormal. While many cultures believe in some form of a life force or another, this "energy" of the body is not detectable in any way beyond the claims of self proclaimed sensitives. And why should it be? It is not energy in the physical sense, so the laws of physics need not govern it, right? If that is indeed the case, then conservation of energy would not apply and that "theory" is busted.

At this point, some might still ask, "What happens to our body's energy when we die, then?"
This is pretty simple to explain. Being that the body is dead, it no longer needs to take in any energy in the form of food. The remaining energy in the body is radiated off as heat and the rest of the chemical energy stored in our tissues is consumed by the body's environment.
I think that pretty well dismisses the idea of spirits lingering due to the first law of thermodynamics, but be warned. After raising these points in a discussion with a believer, be prepared for the guaranteed "Science doesn't understand everything." response.