Monday, 9 May 2016

*Cough* Great "Evidence" for the Paranormal *Cough*

Take a look at this footage featured in a report by Belfast Live yesterday (08/05/16) and in today's Daily Mirror (09/05/16). Recorded at St Comgalls on Divis Street West Belfast in April, by paranormal investigations team PSII, who claim that the camera was set off by some unseen motion and that both footsteps and a disembodied voice saying "get out" can be heard.

As you can probably see, without unedited footage we simply can't conclude that the camera is moved by a "ghost". This could easily be a member of the team stood behind the camera altering it. Nor can we conclude that the recording was set off by "ghostly motion". We only have the team's word that this was even motion sensitive, and if it was it could have easily been set off by the team member moving behind the camera.

The paper and the team both seem very impressed with the "disembodied" voice. which allegedly says "get out". Yeah.... erm... pretty sure that's a cough. One could also probably put the footsteps down to this person walking through the corridor outside the room in which the camera is located.

Sorry PSII, this just isn't impressive at all.

The team also provide some other "evidence" in the form of the following photographs, about which the paper says:
"They also say they were able to capture images of a man standing in a corridor of the school and another of a child in a white dress."

I assume the above image is that of the child in a dress, and the image below is presumably a zoomed in version.

Now I can't personally see the second figure in the original image and I have to question why the team hasn't zoomed in on it as they did with the claimed child image?

PSII also try to pass this off as two separate apparitions on their FB page, so this isn't an error of an exaggeration by the newspaper.

In terms of the team's evidence, this is as far as the newspaper goes, but the team offers another piece of evidence on their FB page. It's pretty clear why it's left out of the article.

Words cannot express how reprehensible I find the practice of investigations teams offering things like this as evidence is. Firstly there is no way to show this wasn't done by a human hand. The positioning on the victims neck/face is perfectly placed for the right hand to have reached over and made these marks. If they'd been done from behind, for example, they would have to slope down the other way (front high to back low)unless the attacker were extremely tall. Even then it would be awkward. If the marks were made from the front, the victim should have been able to see the attacker.

I'm left with the disturbing impression that this is a form of self-harm, we are seeing all too often in the paranormal field. I'd urge groups to reconsider before posting images like this, if nothing else, they can't show that this is not naturalistic, it's highly replicable, so PSII are just encouraging others to hurt themselves for the sake of producing "evidence".

At this point, I imagine that you've noticed that almost every time I've typed "evidence" I've used inverted commas. That's because I don't really think that PSII understands what constitutes evidence of the paranormal. As what PSII are claiming to do is research we can safely assume that valid evidence should be empirical in nature, we should also assume that the hypothesis they are attempting to prove or disprove is, very simply, "Ghosts exist and can be caught on traditional recording equipment". Let's be charitable and call PSII's video and photographs data, it's clear that when assessing this data the team are assuming as an axiom that ghosts exist. As such, they immediately dismiss rational explanations and expect us to do the same. 

Sorry, but Sagan said it best...

Any claim of the existence of ghosts is most certainly extraordinary as it's acceptance would require the rewriting of many of the laws of physics, laws which are not only well-evidence but are the foundations of our understanding of the universe. Even the most impressive "ghost" video or photo can not be considered extraordinary.... naturalistic explanations or fakery would need to be ruled out first. 

Unfortunately, PSII have solidly failed to do this.