Werewolf of London

Late night tomfoolery with a werewolf mask, a fleece-lined robe, and a pretty cool song…

 

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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.

2010 Mothman Festival: An Interview With Jeff Wamsley

The Mothman Festival, which takes place annually in Point Pleasant, WV is just around the corner.  Celebrating the local paranormal legend it draws its name from, The Mothman Festival will kick off it’s 9th installment Saturday September 18 and run through the 19th.  I had the chance to catch up with Jeff Wamsley, the driving force behind this event, to get his thoughts on this year’s festival, as well as the sightings that sparked it all.

“I was born and raised here in Point Pleasant.  I was 5 years old when the sightings started,” Jeff says.  “We lived a few doors away from (original witness) Linda Scarberry, so as I grew older and saw books like John Keel’s “The Mothman Prophecies,” I realized that this stuff all happened real close by.”

What happened was the Mothman, and it is among the most talked about stories among paranormal enthusiasts.  For those that don’t know much about it, Jeff recounts the details:  “Point Pleasant first saw this thing on November 15th 1966 up in the TNT area.  Two young couples saw it.  7 feet tall, giant wings and glowing red eyes.  From there on out over 100 reported sightings were filed; tons of UFOs too.”

But the intrigue didn’t stop there.  In the wake of these sightings, more strange things started happening.  According to Mr. Wamsley, “many Mothman and UFO witnesses were approached by strange looking men dressed in black who warned and threatened them about speaking to the press, newspapers and media.  Many witnesses were intimidated into keeping quiet, and some are still silent to this day.”  Unfortunately, Jeff himself has had no luck getting them to open up either.  “Believe me, I have tried to get them to sit down with me and talk about what they saw.  Not going to happen.”

Jeff is aware as anyone that the story of Mothman can sound a little far fetched, and understands why some might be skeptical of it.  But, as he puts it, skeptics are just a part of the story.  “It would be hard to believe this stuff unless you had encountered it or spoke to people who did and I have.  These people are not professional liars by any means.  Too many people saw it and described it the same way.”

Aside from growing up in the area, Mr. Wamsley operates the world’s one and only Mothman Museum.  It is here that folks come to check out props from the film John Keel’s book inspired, as well as grab a souvenir or two, be they books, pins, t-shirts and more.  Simply put, the story of Mothman, as well as his hometown, are important to him.

“Not every small town like Point Pleasant has its own monster,” Jeff jokes.  “The festival was started almost 10 years ago to get some folks to visit Main Street.  Now there is nowhere to park during the festival.  I really feel I owe my hometown something.  It was a great place to grow up.  It just happened to also be the home to UFOs, Men in Black, and giant things that flew around.”

If you are interested in heading to Point Pleasant for the Mothman Festival this year, Jeff says you can expect plenty.  “Lots of people, food, guest speakers, vendors, live bands, hayrides, bus tours.  We try to bring something new each year.  It’s just a big family reunion for all who come each year.  Its always good to see old friends who like to hunt for Mothman.”

Myself, as well as my friends and fellow co-hosts on Strange Frequencies Radio, Bobby Nelson and Robyn McKinney, will be back again this year and look forward to enjoying the festivities.  Maybe we’ll see you there!

For more information about the Mothman Festival, including speakers as well as restaurants and accommodations you might want to check out in the area, please visit www.mothmanfestival.com

“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/

Mary Knows Best (is the worst)

‘Mary Knows Best’ is a new show on Syfy that follows the life psychic medium Mary Occhino. This show is absolute garbage, its like John and Kate plus 8 meets psychic woo. More or less the show is a Mary sticking her nose in her children’s business, embarrassing them in every scene, showing clips of her walking up to random people and giving them cold readings, showing her behind the mic of her radio show which is on siruis and that is about the gist of the show. Gist? More like all 44-painstaking minutes of it.
 
It is shot and edited in a way where all the misses she makes during her psychic readings are left out. She says the line “I’m a psychic!” about 47 times, as if we were going to forget. Her method is typical cold reading, where she is fishing for answers and verification from innocent individuals that are quick to believe her. The word ‘skeptic’ is thrown around a few times and each time I hear it being used I laugh. For instance, her radio producer says “I was skeptic at first but not anymore, Mary is the real deal.” Mary also claims her son is a ‘skeptic’ but knows she is the real thing and always right. I got news for you Mary…that’s not a real skeptic. A skeptic would find a way to scientifically tests the abilities of the supposed psychic, not hear her lame cold readings and be convinced she is the “real” thing.
 
One of the producers said she believes because a week before she is sick Mary will tell her she is getting ready to come down with something. Those are called symptoms, sweetie. I mean this show isn’t even good for the comedic entertainment, like the kind you get when watching Ghost Adventures. So if you like loud-mouth women pretending to pass of a cool mentalist trick as authentic psychic phenomena around her annoying family and innocent people on the street, maybe you could stomach this show, I have a feeling any self respecting individual won’t tune in to the next episode.
 
I am no psychic, but I predict this show doesn’t even make a whole season, we will see if I am right.

Monsters in Texas

It seems we have some exciting news occurring over in Hood County, a small northern Texas community. It seems in the last four days people have been spotting the ever elusive (cue the suspenseful music) Chupacabra! The article reports that two of these “mysterious” creatures have been killed near farm lands within a period of three days. Since local animal control officials have no idea what the animals are, they have been dubbed “unknown” and we all know what happens next. “Unknown” always means “para”normal, so why not label the unknown animals Chupacabra?
 
And guess what? That is just what they did.
 
Texan David Hewitt is one of the land owners that shot and killed one of these supposed Chupacabras (no the ‘s‘ is NOT a typo).  “I had no idea what it could be,” Hewett was quoted as saying. “It looked like one of them hairless Chihuahuas, only much bigger.”
 
Remember what I said earlier about an unknown becoming paranormal? “From all indications, it seemed to be a Chupacabra. The claws, toenails, are nothing like I’ve seen on a coyote. Skinny, pointed tail; sure looks like a possum to me,” Hewitt said. “Never seen any kind of animal that doesn’t have hair on it.”
 
Well, Mr. Hewett, didn’t you just say it looks like hairless Chihuahua? OR was that a possum? Here’s a fun fact for you Land Owner Hewitt; dogs with mange tend to lose their hair. Mange is a class of persistent contagious skin disease caused by parasitic mites. It typically causes the animal to lose its hair. Surprisingly, there are many reasons for animals to lose hair. If interested in seeing why dogs may lose hair, check out this link for starters:
http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+1593&aid=421.
 
This ’report’ reminds me of a very popular urban legend. There are many variations, but the basic tale has a family bringing home a hairless Chihuahua for their son after visiting Mexico. They take the creat to the vet, only to discover it’s a giant sewer rat with rabies. Now seriously, let’s use a bit of critical thinking here. First off, unknown doesn’t mean paranormal, hell unknown doesn’t even mean unknowable. Just because local animal control officials cannot identify the animal that doesn’t make this creature unidentifiable. Or we can make this even simpler by using Occam’s razor. What makes more sense: that this creature is a known creature unidentifiable because of a possible skin parasite or some other disorder; or some mythological monster that no biological evidence exists for?
 
I am going with this is a known animal; it is just a matter of figuring it out.
 
References:
http://www.wfaa.com/news/entertainment/pets/Chupacabra-like-animals-turn-up-in-Hood-County-98174199.html