Posts Tagged “haunting”

Lebeau Plantation - fire guts historic building in Old Arabi Friday morning, Nov. 22, 2013. (Ray Solis Photo, via The Times-Picayune)As I’ve mentioned several times before, once upon a time, the vocation of “ghost hunter” and/or “paranormal investigator” was rare. It was so rare, in fact, that in Connecticut, where I grew up, these phrases were used to speak only of Lorraine Warren and her late husband Ed. Over the past 10 years or so, though — probably owing to the numerous television series on “ghost hunting” that have cropped up on almost every cable channel — it seems virtually everyone has become a “ghost hunter.” And why shouldn’t they? There’s no training involved, no credentialing, and no standards to abide by. Pretty much anyone can grab a camera, a recording device, maybe a light meter, and traipse through old places claiming to find “entities” and assorted other nutty stuff.

Most of the time, aside from the occasional trespassing incident (cached), and the even-more-occasional freak-accident death, there’s little harm this pastime. Still, “ghost hunters” do manage to get themselves into trouble, and even destroy property. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports on a cadre of ghost hunters who, upset that they couldn’t manage to scare up a ghost in a supposedly-haunted plantation, set fire to it (WebCite cached article):

The seven men in custody in connection with the suspected arson of LeBeau Plantation [cached] in Old Arabi apparently were looking for ghosts, according to St. Bernard Parish Sheriff Jimmy Pohlmann. The sheriff said the men had been smoking marijuana and drinking in the vacant house.

One of the men is from Arabi, one is from Gretna, and the others are from Texas, the sheriff said.

The men, between the ages of 17 and 31, arrived at the home late Thursday night, likely entering through a gap in the fence around the property that had been cut out by other curious trespassers over the years, according to Col. John Doran, who oversees the Sheriff’s Office’s criminal enforcement.…

Doran said the men appear to have become frustrated when no ghosts materialized. Police believe that in a haze of alcohol and marijuana, one of them decided to burn the place to the ground.

Doran said the ringleader seemed to be Dusten Davenport, 31, of Fort Worth, Texas, who is suspected of having the idea to start the fire, and who began stacking up pieces of wood.

Despite being supposedly fogged by booze and/or pot, these creeps managed to do a pretty thorough job of razing the place. I have to wonder how intoxicated they truly were. They’re lucky none of them was hurt or killed during the course of this little adventure.

Photo credit: Ray Solis Photo, via The Times-Picayune.

Hat tip: Raw Story, via RationalWiki.

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High resolution scan of engraving by Gustave Doré illustrating Canto XXXIV of Divine Comedy, Inferno, by Dante Alighieri. Caption: Lucifer, King of HellLike so many other media outlets, the folks at WTIC-TV in Hartford seem to have run out of material to fill their nightly news, to the point that they ran a story on exorcisms in my home state of Connecticut. I’ll grant the Nutmeg State has some history in that regard. It’s home to the famous ghost-hunters, the Warrens (Lorraine and her late husband Ed). The famous “demon murder trial” took place here in the 1980s. It was the setting of the 2009 movie The Haunting in Connecticut. Famously haunted places in Connecticut include the abandoned hamlet of Dudleytown, the defunct Norwich State Hospital, Union Cemetery in Easton, and Pettibone’s Tavern (now Abigail’s Grill) … just to name a few.

In their effort to pursue the “hauntings as news” motif I’ve blogged about so many times already, the folks at WTIC-TV ran this story on a paranormal-investigation group and one of their recent cases (WebCite cached version). Unfortunately this is a video report only, and there doesn’t seem to be any way for me to embed it here … so you’ll have to click on the link in order to see it.

They report — uncritically — that a “spiritual battle” is underway, and that “in recent years, it has intensified.” The group they follow is called Connecticut Spirit Investigators, and the reporter cites its claimed 40-year history as a way to grant the group credibility. The group’s high-tech equipment is also on display. What is never explained, is precisely how the group “knows” that a stray magnetic field or a cold spot in a room can only be caused by a ghost, spook, spirit, demon or devil, and can’t possibly have any mundane explanation. They also seem to think weird noises coming from their so-called “ghost box” are proof that supernatural entities lurk at a place; I think it’s proof only that these folks have deluded themselves.

The reporter also claims the group’s “investigation” (if one could call what they do “investigating”) led to an exorcism being performed by a “Bishop McKenna” who’d also exorcised demons in the famous Amityille Horror case. The reporter may have considered this impressive, but I don’t. The famous Amityville, NY haunting turned out to have been a hoax (cached)! Also, the “bishop” in question would have to be Robert McKenna, whose consecration as bishop is suspect, and who in any event is a schismatic (he claims the popes after Pius XII have all been illegitimate); it’s extremely unlikely that McKenna has ever received official approval to perform any exorcisms.

The reporter also brings in another evangelist for ghost-hunting, Fr Bob Bailey from Rhode Island (who’s also appeared on the show Paranormal State). Fr Bailey pontificates on the eternal “cosmic struggle” mentioned at the beginning of the piece, as though he’s an authority on the subject, and not a paid hack who makes money making such claims.

The reporter ends the piece by stating that none of the region’s diocesan offices would discuss the matter, and referred the station directly to the Vatican. That also didn’t go anywhere, apparently. And that’s no surprise … the Catholic Church doesn’t really talk about exorcism — at least, not officially.

At no time during this piece was there even the slightest hint that the interviewees’ claims were anything less than 100% true. At no time does the reporter point out that there is not one iota of objective evidence of the existence of ghosts, demons, poltergeists, devils, souls, Satan, haunted houses, possessions, or the slightest veracity for any of the “paranormal investigators’” antics. At no time does the viewer hear that there’s no objective evidence that any “spiritual battle” is going on at all, much less any evidence offered that it has “intensified in recent years.” At no time did the reporter ask any probing questions, such as “How does any of your equipment prove there’s a ghost or demon here?” There’s nothing about this story that suggests it’s anything other than a puff-piece on CT Spirit Investigators.

I guess this is what passes for 21st century journalism. Unfortunately.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Cartoon ghost / lemmlingA man right here in Connecticut claims he’s invented a ghost detector. And at least one newspaper has published an article about him which conveys his claim and leaves it unchallenged. This is all part of the “hauntings as news” motif I’ve noticed over the last couple of years and have blogged about on numerous occasions. At any rate, here’s the venerable Hartford Courant‘s puff-piece on this “engineer” who now claims to be able to detect ghosts (WebCite cached article):

In 2004, 17-year-old Melissa Galka, a senior at Granby Memorial High School, died after the car she was driving hit a tree in town.

Within days of her death, her father said, she begin communicating with her family.

“She started doing things like ringing the doorbell, changing TV channels, turning lights on and off,” Gary Galka said Monday. “Then one time she came into my room and I felt her sit on the edge of the bed.”

Now Galka has a thriving trade in paranormal detection devices, launched as a result of those eery events.

Note the obviously-sentimental and sympathetic lede in this story. The reader is supposed to believe what this guy tells us, because as a bereaved father, he somehow “knows” more about ghosts than any of the rest of us. While I sympathize with his plight — I really, truly, honestly do; I have lost relatives myself, after all — and while it makes for a dramatic story that reporters and editors are sure will “sell,” none of this grants Galka’s invention any veracity, and it doesn’t make what he’s doing “news.” It just doesn’t.

I also honestly doubt there’s anything new here. After all, “paranormal investigators” have been using EMF detectors to chase after ghosts, for decades. I’m not sure how Galka’s device is appreciably different from any of the myriad other EMF detectors that have been used this way … except that he seems to be marketing them specifically to ghost-hunters.

I suggest Galka and/or fans of this device — if they’re so convinced it does what they claim it does — put this device to the test, and collect a huge payday, while they’re at it. They should immediately submit an application to James “the Amazing” Randi’s Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. I’m not sure why they would not want to do so; a million dollars is, after all, a lot of money to just leave there, waiting to be claimed.

It’s inevitable that grieving people will come up with things like Mel-Meter and the SB7 Spirit Box. It’s quite natural. And as I said, I really do sympathize with Galka. What I find unacceptable here is the Courant‘s lazy and uncritical reporting on Galka’s devices. The story clearly implies they do precisely what Galka says they do — i.e. detect ghosts — however, they in fact do nothing of the sort. In truth, ghosts do not exist; they cannot be detected; they don’t haunt buildings or graveyards; psychics do not talk to them; and science has never demonstrated that they exist. The Courant doesn’t even include a brief comment from a “token skeptic” — but it does add Galka’s own childish swipe at skeptics, expecting them “to ‘take a better position’” (as if it’s up to him, personally, to decide what “positions” are “better” than others). The nation’s oldest newspaper can do better than this … and it should. What a waste.

Photo credit: lemmling, via Open Clip Art Library.

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Pac Man GhostThe “hauntings as news” phenomenon is one I’ve blogged about many times, as a sterling example of lazy journalism at its most obvious. A nearby newspaper, the Torrington Register Citizen (part of the barely-alive collection of rags known as Journal Register Company) is a chief offender in this regard; they’ve reported several times on hauntings and ghosts as though they are real news stories deserving professional journalistic attention. That ghosts do not exist, and that hauntings do not really happen, appears not to matter to the RC‘s hypercredulous staff. They just continue running after every ghost they hear about, including this latest example of their idiocy and laziness (WebCite cached article):

RISEUP Paranormal CT, an affiliate of the Rhode Island based RISEUP Paranormal Group will be investigating the Warner Theater in Torrington, Connecticut on January 16th. The Connecticut based group is led by Gail Capolupo, Ann Collette, Don Krantz and Thomas Flanagan.

We are to be confident that these people are experts on ghosts, for reasons the RC carefully copies verbatim (I assume, since it reads that way) from the group’s press release:

RISEUP (The Rhode Island Society for the Examination of Unusual Phenomena) is a non-profit organization that specializes in researching, investigating, and documenting reported hauntings, UFO/USO experiences, and unidentified mysterious animal sightings. Members are trained to apply science in order to seek logical explanations about supposed paranormal events through the use of surveillance tools, recording devices and common sense. While RISEUP remains open to the existence of ghosts, spirits, extraterrestrial beings and crypto zoological animals, each investigation is conducted without pretensions allowing the group to conduct research as unbiased observers.

These are not really valid “credentials” granting weight to any of their determinations, however. That they’re non-profit does not mean they can’t be deluded or incompetent. That they “document” things does not grant veracity to what they document. That they claim to “apply science” to things, does not mean they actually do. That these people are “open” to strange things means they may be too credulous to bother looking into mundane, non-mystical explanations for things. That they claim to investigate “without pretensions” does not mean they actually do. That they say they’re “unbiased” does not mean they actually are. For all I know, these folks may sincerely believe the pablum and nonsense they’re serving up. But that also does not grant them any veracity.

The only way to establish the veracity of ghosts, is to subject them to rigorous, valid scientific testing. To date, this has never even been attempted, much less tried and failed. Anyone who is certain s/he can do so, would do well to submit an application to the James “the Amazing” Randi’s One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, collect his/her prize, and become instantly wealthy.

And yes, the Randi Foundation has that money set aside. Yes, you will be allowed a say in how your own test is conducted. And not to worry if you don’t need all that money, you can always donate it to charity … so don’t let that stop you! If you’re right, you have absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by doing so.

Lastly … I’ve been to the now-magnificent Warner Theater in Torrington many times, beginning way back in the 70s when it was a dreary, run-down movie theater, rather than the art-deco live theater it is now. I’ve been in its backstage areas and all around the building. But never once have I seen even the slightest hint of anything that could even remotely be called a ghost. I grant that I’m a cold-hearted godless agnostic cynic and skeptic, so I guess the ghosts there have — quite obviously — read my mind, detected that, and steered clear of me so that I would remain skeptical.

Or something like that, the true believers love to say.

Photo credit: acordova.

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Derby Superior Courthouse, aka Sterling Opera HouseIt’s to be expected, I suppose, given that Halloween is almost here. But the news media continue to waste their time — and that of their readers/listeners/viewers — on stories about “hauntings” and the paranormal. It’s something I’ve blogged on many times already, and there doesn’t seem to be any end to this pathetic journalistic trope. The latest example is one I saw tonight on WTNH-TV out of New Haven, CT, reporting on the putative “haunting” of the Sterling Opera House in Derby, CT (WebCite cached article):

News 8 is with two paranormal investigators checking out one spot in Connecticut some say is haunted, the Sterling Opera House.

Dan Rivera and John Silveira run “Above the Realm Paranormal” which checks out reports of Unexplained noises or shadows or other things you can’t explain yourself.

The Sterling Opera House was built in 1889. It’s undergoing a renovation.

The “meat” of the report is in the video, which is right here:

The problem is that none of this so-called “evidence” proves anything. Gobs of light on photographs? Lens flares. Supposed children’s voices saying “Help me”? Some guy off-camera holding something over his mouth, saying it in falsetto.

Please, spare me the protestations of how “genuine” and/or “sincere” these “paranormal investigators” claim to be. They may be genuine, in which case they’re deluded. They also may not be, which makes them frauds. Either way, not good.

And the good folks at Channel 8 News were taken in by it. For shame. We don’t need any more “haunting journalism.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Pam Ziobron, Deep River Public Library (Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant / 4/16/10)I’ve blogged before on the “hauntings in the news” trope. I’m amazed that reporters these days can’t seem to find anything better to report on. It’s nothing more than “make-news,” or stuff they crank out in order to take up space in the paper. This morning’s example comes from the venerable Hartford Courant (WebCite cached article):

Odd things are happening at the Deep River Public Library.

Staff member Pam Ziobron was working by herself late one Saturday. She had shut off all the lights except for the one at the circulation desk, where she was standing, when she had a strong sense that she wasn’t alone.

“It was just a feeling. … It was just so light and airy, like a female coming down the stairs. It was very, very real,” Ziobron said.

Oh well. I guess there’s no question about it, then. Whenever you get those “feelings … like a female coming down the stairs,” then it can’t possibly be anything else, now, can it?

The article goes on to cite a couple of “haunting” stories in the Deep River library, none with any better evidence than Ziobron’s. It also goes on to cite a presumed expert on the subject:

Michael Dionne, founder of Full Spectrum Ghost Hunters, said that about 1 percent of the cases he investigates are paranormal.

And of course we know Dionne can’t possibly be wrong about that, because … well … he makes a name for himself going around talking about the paranormal and electromagnetic fields and all. Right?

Wrong. These ad hoc, self-appointed “experts” have no objective, verifiable basis for any claim they make. Yet the Courant — which has the distinction of being Connecticut’s newspaper of record — touts one such person as having indisputable veracity.

Sheesh. What bilge. Get with it, Courant, and report some news, not useless tripe like this.

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The “hauntings as news” trope has gotten old and tired, yet journalists continue to pound out “haunting” stories — even though hauntings are not news. But this latest example is a twist on that trend. A nearby paper, the Torrington Register-Citizen, reports on the cessation of a haunting rather than one that’s ongoing (WebCite cached article):

The horses do not mysteriously switch stalls at the Santos farm anymore.

Nor does the cat’s bowl move from one step to another step to another.

Donna Santos believed spirits were at work inside her house and inside her barn on West Hill Road.

Ms Santos credits some help she received, for getting rid of her “ghosts”:

Eventually, she heard about a group called the Northwest Connecticut Paranormal Society. Comprised of people who believe they have experienced a paranormal activity, the society scrutinizes instances in which people report suspected supernatural activities. …

John Zontok, the founder of this paranormal society, describes himself as a skeptic and a critical thinker. With its goal being to educate people, the society includes a college professor, a professional photographer, a paralegal, a business executive, a Marine, a Reiki master, college students and a dog, according to the organization. …

“Our main goal is to find something to show that paranormal activity exists,” Zontok said. “I am a sceptic regarding the paranormal.”

Let me clear something up right now: No genuine “skeptic” is going to run a “paranormal society” that finds ghosts. It doesn’t happen. What Zontok is doing, is to claim to be a “skeptic” so that he can appear to disarm other, genuine skeptics. To paraphrase, “I’m a skeptic, and I believe in this stuff. If you’re a skeptic, you should too … and if you don’t, then you’re not a ‘real’ skeptic and are just being unreasonable.”

Sorry Mr Zontok, it doesn’t work. You don’t get to call yourself a “skeptic” but then run around acting like a hypercredulous nut chasing every ghost you hear about. I’m not stupid enough to fall for that maneuver. As for how a dog can be an expert on the paranormal … well … that hardly merits comment.

At any rate, as the Register-Citizen goes on to explain, after this society’s “investigation,” the Santos’s problems have ended:

Ever since the paranormal society people investigated, the unexplained phenomenon have stopped, according to Donna Santos.

Ms Santos, have you considered that these “unexplained phenomena” have ended — because there never were any ghosts in the first place? Perhaps whoever had been pulling tricks on you, decided to stop, after you reeled in the Northwest Connecticut Paranormal Society to check things over?

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