Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Flogging Dead Horses.

I've made this statement before, but surely tabloid reporting can't get worse than this story in today's Daily Mirror (5/1/16). The Mirror reports:

"an amateur photographer believes he has unwittingly captured a spooky picture of a GHOST on horseback in a graveyard. Richard Durham, 45, took the eerie snap as he went for a walk with his new camera on New Year's Day.
The dad-of-three stopped by Weedon Bec cemetery in Daventry, Northants, and photographed the frosty scene at around 9am. But when he returned home and uploaded it to Facebook an eagle-eyed pal pointed out the ghostly image lurking behind a row of headstones. Since then the gardener has been contacted by dozens of spooked web users who believe they can also see the chilling outline of a hooded figure and a horse."
Bet you can't wait to see this can you? What's your bet? App? Pareidolia? Actual ghost?

Wrong. It's quite literally nothing. There's a vague shape made by the gaps in the branches of the trees. This is just another example of journalists failing to consider pareidolia. Like most of these articles, the Mirror attempts to squeeze some highly subjective anecdotes into the form of evidence:
"Yesterday Richard, from Boothville, Northants, said: "The weird thing is, one friend told me her three-year-old daughter always acts quite strange around that area.
"She stops and holds out her hand like she is stroking a horse. Another friend told me her child did exactly the same.
"I do believe in ghosts but never thought I would ever capture one on camera.
"All I was doing was trying to get a few nice weather shots on a frosty and misty morning. It is quite an old village so probably has a few stories to tell.
"Locals have been telling me the pub down the road is haunted by a horseman.
"Apparently he used to walk there from the main church though the graveyard and up along the canal.
"So maybe this is him."
Maybe! Or maybe villages like Richard's retain tales like ghostly horsemen into folklore and this is a desperate attempt to use said folklore add substance to something with none. One thing this story does confirm that the Mirror is dead as a serious newspaper. It's journalistic integrity swapped for click-bait and advertisers' revenue.

Even the papers' own readers are sick of this bullshit.

Like Lorna, many of the commentators successfully identify pareidolia as the cause of the ghostly image, those that can see there actually is an image that is.

But it's not general readers of the paper who this bullshit exploits, it's believers in the paranormal, and it's a certain sub-section of believers who employ a particular line of argument that prevent these stories from being consigned to the rubbish bin, where they belong. Here's a recent exchange I had that exemplifies this thinking. The discussion was regarding the Harry's Bar and Grill ghost which was pretty much conclusively debunked on this page. The conversation is similar in theme to one I have frequently, especially with believers in the paranormal, conspiracy theorists and those fooled by the anti-vaccination movement and it usually contains some iteration of the following sentence:

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinion."

Take a look at the conversation, which occurred on a Facebook site, the title of which I can't remember.

So Duff posits that this is an optical illusion or "motion blur", if you've read the post I linked to above, you'll have seen this clearly isn't the case. As Duff is clearly open to a rational explanation I link to my post, thinking he'll be genuinely interested.Unfortunately, he's pretty wedded to his "motion blur" explanation, and pretty much refuses to even view what's linked. The problem here is, even though Duff is clearly trying to be skeptical, he's still wrong, in fact his explanation is as wrong as saying this is a ghost. He points out that the blog is only my opinion.

Caryn adds that the conclusive nature of the post forbids others from saying what they think, later I the thread she actually goes on to say providing evidence is "forceful". Yes, this is often the end result of conclusively proving your point. This isn't fascist, or authoritarian, it's proving your point. 

I'm not against personal opinions, but there seems to be a belief amongst many at the moment that all opinions should be considered equally. This simply isn't constructive. An opinion backed with evidence is far more valid than one which comes, as Duff's did, without a shred of the same. In fact, an opinion with enough evidence becomes more a statement of fact. It's not, as Caryn seems to suggest, uncouth to tell someone they are wrong when it's demonstrable.

 There's also the matter of topics of debate falling into two definite categories, subjective and objective. This is an objective matter, there is a definite answer. Unsupported opinions are worthless in such issues. I have no issue with opinions, I also have no issue tearing down unsupported opinions.

So how does all this help propagate the sharing, and thus continued financial gain, of tabloid chunder such as the "dead horse" mentioned above. Well if there's no objective answer, if, in the mind of the believer, there's no shutting this crap down. Non-mysteries continue to be mysterious, in a nebulous, post-modern field where opinion is king. This makes repeated sharing of tabloid effluent acceptable.
It's genuine, truth-seeking believers who I pity in all this. Those that are comfortable with being wrong sometimes, that is the key to learning after all. The Mirror and other papers, make a mockery of them when they publish stories like this.

Speaking of making a mockery of the paranormal community.

The Rational Paranormal Hall Of Shame. 

In this semi-regular feature, I'll highlight the paranormal investigation teams which embarrass their hobby/field by blatantly faking ghost images and presenting them as "evidence" of the paranormal. The reason for doing this, by faking images and phenomena these teams humiliate teams who are out there employing legitimate methods to investigate the paranormal. To keep up to date with this, and to highlight such misdemeanors visit my Facebook page, The Rational Paranormal.

The time around it's two investigation teams who used ghost apps to fake evidence.

Central Ohio Paranormal Research Group 

This team, who claim to provide "educational services" was brazen enough to take this image from perhaps the best known "ghost app" for the iPhone. Perhaps a bit more research next time will show the group how easy these images are to identify and debunk.

What could be more pitiful than that?

Step up Paul Coffey of Central Texas Paranormal who boldly claimed that his spirit guides helped him confirm that the following image was legitimate. Your spirit guides need an internet connection mate, that's an app.

Of course, as soon as I called this on CTP's page it was instantly removed.

It's most definitely app season on social media, if you want to make some headway calling out ghost app fakery the following facebook pages will be extremely helpful to you as they have been to me.

There's a ghost app for that.

Ghost app Ghosts

Ghost Photo App Database Debunking Library

Happy debunking.

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