Posts Tagged “ghosts”

Free vector graphic: Ghost, Spooky, Cheeky, Ghostly - Free Image on Pixabay - 156969, via PixabayIt’s been quite awhile since I blogged about the inane journalistic phenomenon of “hauntings as news.” That’s when some otherwise-reputable journalist pens a story telling the world that some place is haunted. I just saw another example of this in a nearby newspaper, the (Torrington, CT) Register-Citizen, reporting on an astonishing “revelation” (Archive.Is cached article):

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado is believed by many to be haunted by ghosts, and one family’s photo is the latest to attempt to give credence to the ghostly claims.

The Mausling family of Aurora, Colorado was on a “spirit tour” of the 108-year-old hotel on Sept. 16 when John “Jay” Mausling claims to have snapped a photo of what he says appears to be two ghosts.

It’s really funny that anyone would be astonished at seeing a “ghost” while on a “spirit tour” of a supposedly-haunted building. Why, of course they did! Why, of course the people running this “spirit tour” set up that illusion! I can’t handle relaying any more of this laughable dreck.

Let me be perfectly clear: There are no ghosts. Buildings cannot be haunted. No one can speak with the dead. This is outrageous fucking bullshit … period, end of story.

The reason newspapers resort to “hauntings as news” should be obvious, and that’s because it’s easy reporting. Either people come to reporters with their “tips” directly, or they post them online, but either way, they basically package the story for the reporter, making it simple, easy, and quick. In an age of shrinking newsrooms, hauntings are a fast and ready way to fill up the newshole. In this case, there was the added plus of an association between the place of this claimed “haunting” and the famous movie The Shining. That makes it “catchy” and will help collect eyeballs.

But none of that grants this story — or any other like it — merit. It doesn’t mean the Stanley Hotel is haunted. It doesn’t mean anyone photographed an actual “ghost.” Stories like this one are massive journalistic “fails.”

Photo credit: Pixabay.

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Rick Fenbers / CreepyCincinnati.Com, via WCPO-TVAs I’ve said so many times, the ubiquity of “ghost hunting” shows on television has caused the numbers of “paranormal investigators” in the US to proliferate ridiculously. Anyone can now grab a light meter or EMF detector and pretend to be able to locate ghosts, demons, specters, goblins, poltergeists, devils, orbs, wraiths, etc. Really, it’s anybody’s game now, since there are no specific methods, no rules, no certification, no specifics, no credentials … just tromp around like an idiot waving your device around and yammer about “entities” and “auras” and all of that assorted parapsychological gibberish.

Most of the time this is harmless stuff. Sure, you have the occasional bonehead standing on a railroad track waiting for a “ghost train” to come along only to be killed by a real one, or the occasional ghost-hunter who trespasses and gets arrested (WebCite cached article) … but for the most part the only cost is the amount of time paranormal investigators waste on their fluff and nonsense.

That said, the good people of the Cincinnati suburb of Blue Ash, OH are dealing with folks who think there’s a “portal to hell” there. As WCPO-TV reports, a neighborhood is disrupted and police have been getting lots of calls (cached):

There’s a portal to hell in Blue Ash.

That is, if you listen to paranormal investigators, teenagers and folks who like to get spooked.

“It’s one of the best known, but least seen, urban legends around here,” CreepyCincinnati.com blogger Rick Fenbers said. “A group of Satanists supposedly used to meet there in some type of altar room and conduct their rituals… They must have been pretty good, because the legend claims they managed to open a doorway to hell.”

But what Fenbers and others call “Satan’s Hollow,” neighbors and cops call a nightmare.…

“It’s rough on the homeowners,” Blue Ash Police Lt. Steve Schueler said. “People park in their driveway and try to get into the drainage system and nobody likes that. (The owner) has had to chase off some people, for sure.”

Now, if I were the superstitious type and truly thought this was an actual “portal to hell,” I definitely wouldn’t be going anywhere near it. So I’m not sure why “true believers” would want to venture there. Then again, their way of thinking is alien to me, so how could I hope to comprehend it?

The bottom line is that people need to fucking grow the hell up, put away the Mel meters and EVP recorders and all of that assorted trash, and get on with their little lives already. Don’t disrupt the lives of others just because you think you can venture into hell via a storm sewer just outside Cincinnati. Enough is enough, fercryinoutloud!

Photo credit: Rick Fenbers / CreepyCincinnati.Com, via WCPO-TV.

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Scary Ghost / naoshika, via Open Clip Art LibraryIt’s been a while since I last blogged about the phenomenon of “hauntings as news.” Of course, that’s not because media outlets have stopped reporting on “hauntings” and other “paranormal” events as though they were legitimate news stories. Oh no. In this age of so-called “reality” shows featuring ghost hunters, mediums, etc., it’s obviously something the media have decided they’re not going to let go of.

And frankly, why should they? “Haunting” stories are the sorts of things that literally drop themselves into reporters’ laps. Either people tip reporters off to “hauntings,” or else they overhear a “haunting” story and decide to relay it. They might have to talk with a couple of people familiar with the supposedly-haunted location, but most of those folks are willing interviews who have a lot of information to give (or so they think). It’s quick and easy to write a “haunting” story … whereas, by comparison, most other types of real news are much harder to develop. In this age of pared-down newsrooms, one can see the appeal of such stories.

As for “reality” shows, supposed ghost hunters (cached) and “paranormal investigators” are very good at ginning up drama and staging things to appear however they wish them to. The shows’ producers don’t have to work too hard at their jobs. It’s easy money!

The latest example of “paranormal journalism” caught my eye — and engendered this blog post — because the venerable Hartford Courant reported flat-out that a building is haunted. As though it were definite and confirmed. There are no caveats, qualifiers, “reportedlys” or anything of the kind. Reporter Dan Haar lays it out unequivocally and unreservedly (WebCite cached article):

In Canton, near the town green, the contrast between The Junk Shop and The Blue House a few doors away is striking.

Both sell antiques and vintage furnishings but The Junk Shop, owned and run by Eric Hathaway, has the feel of a chaotic workshop and is open to noise from Route 44. The Blue House, owned and run by Eric’s wife, Kimberly Hathaway, is quiet, orderly, filled with linens and lace, artwork and clothing.

Oh, and The Blue House is haunted.

Did you catch that? It’s a simple, clear, unqualified statement: “… The Blue House is haunted.” Nothing else.

This is not the first time Connecticut’s newspaper of record has declared a building definitively “haunted”; I caught them at it right around 5 years ago. The Courant is also part of the same group (within the larger Tribune media conglomerate) which thought exorcisms were genuine “news” a couple years ago and told us all about how a “spiritual battle” is underway, and that “in recent years, it has intensified” … as though they’d somehow managed to verify that claim.

Anyone with a brain — and who can use it — knows there’s no such thing as a verified haunting. Lots of places are supposedly “haunted,” but that’s a far cry from being definitely known as “haunted.”

If Canton’s “The Blue House” has, in fact, been confirmed haunted, it ought to be trivial for its owners (or for reporter Haar or anyone else connected with the place) to provide verification of it. So let’s have it! Upon what objective evidence can anyone know this building is “haunted”? I dare someone to demonstrate it. (Oh, and when they’ve done so, they may as well turn around and apply for the million-dollar grant that the Randi Foundation will no doubt provide them.)

This is the kind the bullshit a paper like the Courant ought never to stoop to. It’s beneath their dignity, and their editors ought to have known better. And it’s a cheap way of grabbing eyeballs. As I said above, I get why they want to churn out stories like this. It’s easy writing and it’s dramatic. People like hearing this crap. Unfortunately, it remains crap, no matter how much readers might like it. And reporting affirmatively that a building is “haunted” without any verification that it actually is, is dishonest at best and lying at worst. It needs to fucking stop. It just does. No one is served by overly-credulous reporters repeating bullshit and lies as though it’s all true — no matter what excuse they come up with for having done so.

Photo credit: Naoshika, via Open Clip Art Library.

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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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Three ghostsIt seems criminals are increasingly using appeals to the supernatural when caught doing things they shouldn’t have. Once upon a time, this sort of thing was unusual. In the ’80s a fellow here in Connecticut tried to plead not guilty to a murder “by reason of demonic possession.” Fortunately that plea didn’t fly, and he was convicted. But there seems to be a rash of this sort thing, lately. In 2010 another Connecticut fellow claimed ghosts had driven him to murder his girlfriend. That particular dodge worked, he was found not guilty by reason of mental defect (WebCite cached version).

Sadly, it looks as though this phenomenon is seeping out of the Nutmeg State. The Smoking Gun reports on a Wisconsin man who blamed ghosts for injuries to his wife (cached):

A Wisconsin man charged with domestic abuse told cops that a “ghost” was actually responsible for injuries suffered by his wife, according to police. …

During police questioning, [Michael] West claimed his wife sustained her injuries to her face and neck during several falls. When pressed by a cop–who pointed to marks on the woman’s neck–the intoxicated West shifted his story. “A ghost did it,” he said.

Cops arrested him — instead of the “ghosts” — for the beating, fortunately. I hope the Wisconsin courts won’t be duped by this maneuver.

Hat tip: Rogues Gallery.

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