Raise Money for Fort Mifflin! HOW DARE I!

This past weekend marked the fourth fund raiser I was involved with for the historic Fort Mifflin in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, I am proud of the work I have done for the fort, along with all the amazing people who have donated items, time, and money to this beautiful place. My four year old son has a fantastic time here, whether he is playing with Albert the fort’s resident cat, or “searching for clues” as he so affectionately says while he jots nonsense on to a piece of paper.

Pardon me for wanting to keep the doors open for him as he continues to grow.

Here is one of the reason’s I am writing this, a tweet by an SFR listener

nopaosak John Dockum

But maybe it will be like Ft. Mifflin and we can get psychics and skeptics here to ignore their convictions and save it for no reason.      “

I never understood why people feel the need to constantly talk down on people for doing something charity related, isn’t it my choice what charity I decide to work for? Here is where I think the problem started

Because I co-host Strange Frequencies Radio, and we are a “skeptical” show, that means I am not allowed to do anything that would upset our skeptical listeners, and one of those things would be hosting a public paranormal investigation. The arguments would be, I don’t investigate anymore, I don’t believe in any of it anymore, I don’t subscribe to the investigating techniques of anyone else..

All very valid points. much like if I were to do a rally for PETA and then was photographed wearing a fur coat, yeah I get it, I get how people think its a contradiction. To be quite honest, I don’t care.

I don’t care what the skeptical community has to say about the fact that I raised money for the fort having a public investigation. I don’t care how the believers feel, I don’t care how the scientific community feels. I don’t do things to please others, I never have, and I certainly won’t start now.

Another huge complaint I am sure is that I worked with people that SFR otherwise would have drilled for their practices, such as the TAPS home team and Nathan Schoonover. I guess I have to explain that I like people despite their beliefs, I like people because they are nice to me, or good to me. not because they practice poor investigation techniques or because they were on a bad TV show. Rob from TAPS home team is a good friend of mine, he always will be no matter what group he investigates with in his spare time, and Nathan, well he had a better sense of humor about his show than even I did.

I think the moral of the story is, I really don’t care what people think, We raised a ton of money for the fort, Had a great time around great people. People were happy and most importantly the employees of the Fort were happy. I did my job, and sometimes when you do a job, you don’t always do what your convictions tell you to do.

I’m not ashamed to like people because I don’t care about their affiliations, why the heck do so many other people care.

If this makes me “uncool” so be it, I’m 33, I am pretty sure I stopped caring about cool when I was 12.

“Ectoplasmic residue…It’s the real thing.”

I was sent a picture last night of what some people are claiming to be “ectoplasmic” mist surrounding a females head. 

If you notice in the photo, the individual is wearing a coat and the “ghost” like mist appears to be right by her head.  It doesn’t take much to realize, that this apparition in mid manifestation is actually the woman’s breath.

Being a skeptic and paranormal researcher there are certain things I can’t stand in the field of paranormal research; one of those things is the claim of ectoplasm.  Ectoplasm (from the Greek ektos which means “outside” and plasma which means “something formed”) which was previously called teleplasm, is a term that was coined by French physiologist and noble prize winner Charles Robert Richet. 

Charles Richet

Richet a man with a passion for science and medicine also had a high interest in psychical research; he even served as president of the Society of Psychical Research located in London in 1905.  Initially Richet was close minded and shrugged off claims of psychic phenomena.  But in his book, Thirty Years of Psychical Research, published in 1923 Richet wrote that he was shameful he was one of the many that was among the willfully blind. 

Richet studied the claims of an Italian peasant named Eusapia Palladino, who was producing some very weird phenomena.  This is when Richet coined the term ectoplasm, explaining that is was some type of jellylike protoplasm that emanates from the medium. 

It is important to note that many researchers of the time felt Palladino was nothing more than a charlatan.  But the typical mindset of a scientist, Richet felt he couldn’t be duped, and defend Palladino.  Richet wrote “Even if there were no other medium than Eusapia in the world, her manifestations would suffice to establish scientifically the reality of telekinesis and ectoplasmic forms.”   Sadly for Richet, this wouldn’t be the case, ectoplasm was never proven authentic, in fact just the opposite.

Lots of ectoplasm cases had been proven to be nothing more than fraud. People using items such as cheese cloth, gauze, chewed paper, egg whites, muslin and even pieces of meat from chicken or cows. 

The way lots of mediums produced this feat was the real work of art, hiding these objects anywhere within reach, even in their own vaginas or rectums.  Some mediums even swallowed these objects and regurgitated them during the séance when the lights were out.

But the thing I find so fascinating is the evolution of this phenomena, how it went from a solid form to a mist.  How it went from protruding out of the orifices of mediums, to a lingering fog floating around alleged haunted locations.

I don’t mean to sound rude but it’s absolutely embarrassing, almost eye rolling to look at some photos that people think is authentic ectoplasmic evidence.  Of course now days ectoplasm only exist in photographs.  Personally, I liked it more when it was cheese cloth. 

Me and ectoplasm

The Problem With E.V.P.

Recently I was engaged in an interesting conversation with a good friend of mine on what could be considered proof of paranormal phenomena. My answer to this question is always very simple but it tends to piss off ghost hunters or paranormal investigators. So I told this friend of mine “there is no such thing as paranormal or supernatural, there is only the normal and natural.” Instantly my friend jumped in and said “that’s your opinion.“ I asked him “what would he consider proof?” Almost instantaneously he responded with “E.V.P.”

For those who may not know what E.V.P. is, it is an acronym for electronic voice phenomena. It is a technique ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts use to capture anomalous voices which are said to be that of the dead. Paranormal investigators will walk around alleged haunted locations with a recorder (digital or analog) and ask questions such as “is anyone here?” or “is there a message you want to tell me?” The investigator will wait about 10-20 seconds in between each question in hopes they will capture some sort of response. Now the responses are not audible by the human ear, but can be heard upon play back of the audio recording. Usually when a “voice” is found, it will be isolated and enhanced by some type of audio program and then presented as evidence of the paranormal.

Now I think it is important to know I am not someone who just finds a reason to criticize these things or have no idea how they work. I too at one point thought E.V.P. would be the thing that somehow proved the existence of ghosts or life after death. I mean the thought is quite romantic, asking a question to a loved one who has passed away and possibly receiving an answer. I have attended hundreds of paranormal investigations and have participated in many E.V.P. ‘sessions.’ I was convinced for years I had made contact with the other side and never thought I could be convinced otherwise. I used to actually think “how can scientist and skeptics not consider this phenomena authentic evidence of the paranormal?” So I whole heartedly understand where my friend and other individuals are coming from when they think these voices are authentic.

Culprit one and the most common which is quickly dismissed by most investigators is audio pareidolia. Pareidolia is a type of illusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct. It is why people see faces of Jesus Christ on burnt toast, the Virgin Mary on wood grain or Abraham Lincoln in the clouds. The same thing can happen with audio. Any indistinct sound or noise the brain can’t identify can be interpreted falsely. For some reason this hits a nerve with paranormal investigators, for many will claim it is a possibility, but of course never with their own evidence. Usually when you ask the investigator about the authenticity of the E.V.P. one of the first things they will say is “I know some of you might think this is nothing more than audio matrixing (a term improperly used instead of pareidolia) but the voice is clear and no one was around or talking when the recorder was running.” Most of the time the voice isn’t clear, it is usually something quick and very low in volume. Which brings me to my next possible culprit; audio enhanced white noise.

Another thing many investigators don’t know is that their recorders produce something called white noise or noise floor. In an article on CSICOP website psychologist James Alcock states that perception is a very complex process in which the brain is trying to find a pattern, and when doing this we prompt our brain by what we expect to hear. It can be demonstrated that people can clearly hear and make out voices in a pattern of white noise, a pattern where there are actually no voices present at all. And the fact that we can routinely demonstrate this effect, it is only parsimonious to suggest that E.V.P. is a product of their own brain, and their expectations, rather than the voices of the dead.

So just imagine if you think you are hearing something and you start to enhance that audio, you are in effect trying to distort the audio into something that relates to what you want or think you are hearing. So what if the individual is really hearing a voice? Still that doesn’t mean the individual has picked up an authentic spirit talking from beyond.

I am going to quickly share a story about when I used to own a recording studio. With top of line recording equipment, it was still possible and pretty common to pick up C.B. Radio signals from semi trucks driving up and down the road. This is called cross modulation. Now if it was that easy to pick up these signals on high tech recording equipment, believe it is just as easy to pick them up on handheld recording devices. It is not just C.B. Radio signals. Cross modulation can occur with VCR’s, cell phones, cordless phones, AM/FM radio, walkie talkies, baby monitors and so on. This could explain why some many E.V.P. seem out of context.

There are many more reasons why a voice may be imprinted on a recorder or cassette tape. For instance, the possibility of old recordings not erasing all the way, leaving faint voices behind that were previously recorded. Believe it or not, this can also occur in the digital world.

So back to my conversation with my friend. He stated that the voice he obtained came from a place where no one was present and his recorder was new. He also said no obscure noises were made at the time of the recording. He said he exhausted all the explanations I would give, thus making it paranormal. This is the thing that fascinates me about the human brain, how individuals can make this jump from normal and rational to paranormal and irrational. My friend proceeded to tell me he knows a voice when he hears one and I don’t doubt that, but I also know how easily the brain is fooled. How something as simple as a book bag being zipped up can be translated as a ghost voice saying Del Rio (true story) or how someone coughing can be misconstrued as a woman screaming (again another true story). So just because my friend knows a voice when he hears one, doesn’t mean he cant misinterpret a noise as a voice.

The argument that because he didn’t know what it could be, so it must be paranormal is a logical fallacy called the argument from ignorance. Now, just to be clear, I am not calling my friend ignorant, but by saying because I don’t know what it is, so it must be paranormal simply doesn’t work. In science there is something called Occam’s razor, a concept that states if there are two or more explanations that lead to the same outcome, the one that provided the easiest explanation is usually the correct one. So following this logic and knowing there are logical and natural explanations for E.V.P. what makes most sense? That it was probably a product of something natural or the voice of the dead? One last point, the fact that other explanations can be given for how “E.V.P.” can be obtained (non ghost/paranormal related), should make this technique null and void.

References:

http://www.csicop.org/specialarticles/show/electronic_voice_phenomena_voices_of_the_dead/

Are Television Shows Destroying the Paranormal Field?

I write today not just to give my opinion, but to honestly seek out and understand yours. The paranormal community has enough blowhards in it, wouldn’t you agree? One thing I feel is missing is a concerted effort to find out why our beliefs are the way they are. People are always going to disagree; about the paranormal and just about everything else, and that’s okay. But it has become increasingly rare these days to try and find out how and why we disagree. So, let us begin. And remember to leave your comments in the designated section below. This is meant as a topic for discussion, after all.

Today’s topic: Are television shows destroying the paranormal?

A common sentiment among those in the paranormal community is that certain television shows (ie: Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State, Extreme Paranormal, Paranormal Cops, etc.) are “destroying the field.” While I would certainly agree that they are rife with fakery, fill the heads of the believers with common misconceptions, and generally teach the enthusiasts among us improper scientific investigation techniques, I would hesitate to say that they destroy the “field” or the community.

Why? Because in order to destroy something, you infer that the victim was once a healthy or viable commodity. It is my opinion that the paranormal was not, is not, and will likely not be healthy or viable anytime in the near future.

Perhaps this sounds cynical and, if so, I apologize. I assure you it is not my intent. I am simply stating how I feel. My opinions are, however, based on evidence. Simply put, there has been no time in the history of the paranormal where investigators have found a shred of proof for any of the claims we insist today are true. We swear ghosts are the spirits of the dead, that EVP are the voices of the dead, and that fluctuations in EMF indicate the presence of the dead. But since we still have little information on what consciousness is, much less whether or not it can survive bodily death (or even exist outside a body) our “theories” are little more than objects of faith – belief based on no evidence.

And, not only that, but it could be argued that, as a community, we are as silly, if not more so, than we were more than 150 years ago. Throughout paranormal history, well respected psychical researchers were using “scientific testing” and concluding that horses were psychic. Some of the most prominent chemists and psychologists of our time were convinced by simple charlatans that the dead could not only speak through them, but that they could play trumpets and materialize themselves via ectoplasmic means through the vagina of the medium! And yes, these are true stories.

Couple that with today’s “investigators” who contend that the best ghost research takes place in darkened rooms, that photographs of dust and bugs are proof of intelligent hauntings, and that the dead can speak through broken radios. It is utter madness! So, pray tell, when exactly was the paranormal community in such good shape that a television show destroyed it?

No, I’m sorry. The television shows aren’t “destroying the field.” I’ll agree that they certainly help to keep it in its doldrums, but they are doing far less to destroy anything than the community of faith-based believers have done all on their own.

Thanks for reading. Now, please, tell me what you think in the comments section.