Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Lies and Dolls? Macabre Interest In Haunted Dolls Can Easily be Converted Into Cash.

Haunted dolls. I just don't get the current fascination. I understand dolls are creepy but the morbid fascination they hold escapes me really. Of course, if we've learned anything about macabre interests there are two benefits to be reaped: a modicum of fame and cold hard cash.

Whilst browsing through my facebook news feed I came across a familiar face, Jayne Harris of HD Paranormal, who you may remember from my spat with her over her "paranormal diploma", which I felt was exploitative and a blatant attempt rake in money for little in return. Jane was making a recommendation for a website called "Dolls with Souls" which Jayne claims she has been using to source haunted dolls for many years.

Of course, I visited the site, and I've found it to be one of the most potentially worrying paranormal selling sites I've come across. Whilst electrical equipment missold as ghost hunting equipment is still likely to fulfil it's primary function, albeit one that doesn't in any way justify the huge mark up the printing a clip art image of a ghost on it brings. If it doesn't fulfil that function it can be returned. The consumer is protected in the event that an item doesn't meet its description. How can the same be said for a haunted doll? I can't see a trade watchdog carrying out Randi-style tests to determine if an object has a "spiritual attachment" and even if they did, there's too much room for special pleading. Does "Well, spirits/psychic abilities/magic doesn't just perform on demand you know!" sound familiar? And that's assuming that the purchaser doesn't persuade them self that the doll is "possessed" by attributing events surround it to some paranormal cause. Dolls With Souls is hardly the first outlet to sell "haunted" paraphernalia. There's quite a cottage industry on E-bay and the like and stories in the press like Jayne Harris brush with fame and the recent poltergeist/doll video only feeds the fad.

One of the most troublesome things about the Dolls With Souls' site is many of the legitimate concerns I have with it are addressed in vague very non-specific ways on the site. Almost as if the creator was prepared for potential objections and wove get out clauses into the fabric of the site. Here are some examples of the concerns I had with the site.

Who is Jayne Baker?

Generally, if we're buying something from someone, especially if we're laying out a large amount of money. £120 for a haunted doll? I'd like to know who I'm dealing with. In addition to lacking a buisiness address, or the slighest indication of where the operations are based, Jayne Baker's site doesn't feature a single image of the lady herself. We are also very expressly told on the about page:
Jayne Harris tells us in her recommendation that she and many other paranormal investigators have been using Jayne Baker as a supplier of haunted items for many years, and Baker's website reiterates this claim:
"When I began collecting in 1972 I was part of an exclusive group of just 8 people, known as the Elite Order of Roses... our work was conducted very discreetly.  Over the past 10 years I have built a wide professional client base including some of the worlds top paranormal investigators, celebrities and TV personalities who have relied on me to keep their identities confidential."
Ok, so she's discreet. But not a single hit appears on Google for "Jayne Baker Haunted Doll". Ten years and zero internet footprint? The tag-line of the site, "the paranormal's best kept secret" seems to make a positive about the fact that there's no information about Baker available anywhere else.

In fact, not even Jayne Harris has mentioned Baker before. Harris has conducted many interviews in the tabloid press in the UK and for various internet sites and normally cites her source for the dolls she possesses as clients she has assisted. In fact in this interview with Broadly from September 2015, Jayne appears to warn against purchasing haunted dolls from sites such as E-Bay:
"We get called out all the time to people's homes to help them with objects. For every item we take, we reimburse people.... I'm against eBay sellers because there comes a level of responsibility in what you're doing. You're effectively passing something onto someone to have in their homes that could bring about paranormal activity. That's why we use the word 'adoption'..."
Strange that Harris doesn't mention that there are reputable sellers, such as baker, even if she doesn't mention her by name.

So potential buyers have almost no idea who they making a purchase from. The e-mail address attached to the associated E-Bay account is also unhelpfully anonymous.
Well... Maybe, there is a small clue as to the identity of Jayne Baker.

The elephant in the room, is Jayne Baker actually a pseudonym of Jayne Harris?

Now, what follows is pure conjecture. We can't ignore the fact that Harris could well be operating as Baker, she herself highlights two of the coincidences surrounding the two identities. Firstly the rather unusual spelling of the first name Jayne. Harris seems aware this may draw suspicion and clumsily highlights it in her endorsement by stating "great name". This smacks somewhat of hiding in plain sight. Speaking of sites (sorry) it wouldn't escape the most casual observer that both Harris' HD Paranormal and Baker's Dolls With Souls sites were built with Wix and are incredibly similar design and colour scheme. Now Harris does acknowledge this as well in her recommendation but did Baker have no input? Or do the ladies in question just have very similar taste? That might also explain that fact the decor in the background of images posted on both sites are almost identical.

The images on the left are taken from HD paranormal, specifically a blog post published on February 8th 2016, the image on the right and the one below it is taken from Dolls With Souls.

Look at the paintwork and also the grain of the cabinet the "haunted objects" are placed on. The photographs on both sites are very similarly shot too. Conclusive? In absolutely no way, shape or form. As Harris is Jayne's married name it would be interesting to know if her maiden name was Baker though.

Of course, the biggest question in this pseudonym argument would be, why would Jayne assume a pseudonym to sell these dolls? She has previously "adopted dolls" to clients for a requested donation, something it seems she doesn't offer on the HD Paranormal site anymore for some reason, and as you'll see from the image below she has no moral objection to selling absolute tat under the banner "paranormal" on her HD Paranormal site. Psychic drawing anyone? A snap at  £20. Or a drawing of your spirit guide perhaps? Who can refuse at a reasonable £30. Quite why there's an extra £10 of value to the latter escapes me. I guess spirit guides are harder to encourage to sit still.

Let's table the question of identity and highlight one of the sites most blatant and shameful claims.

 A Man Walks Into A Major High Street Electrical Outlet.... and inquires about a television. The sales assistant highlights his employers guarantee and the man plops down his £120 (it's a small TV ok) and there's a sale. After a few days, the customer realises his TV isn't working and calls the store. The sales assistant assures our hero the TV does work. "You just have to have faith!" he states before hanging up the phone.

Ridiculous right? 

That's exactly the kind of sales process that Dolls With Souls is conducting. Here's the guarantee offered on the site.
"My dolls are guaranteed to be paranormally active, and are limited in number. Once gone, they're gone."
Wow! A guarantee of paranormal activity is quite bold. One has to wonder why Jayne is selling these items at all. If she can guarantee paranormal activity then why not take Randi's Million Dollar challenge instead?

Surely such a guarantee should offer peace of mind to anyone making a purchase that if they are dissatisfied their money will be returned? Well, first if the burden of proof rests on the consumer to proof an item doesn't match its description or isn't fit for purpose, the people who purchase these dolls and assorted bric-a-brac have no chance. Nor will they have an intervening company like E-Bay or Amazon to uphold any claims. That leaves their only hope in the hands of the owner of the site to offer a refund. The site offers a clear indication of the get out clause, and it's a theme we've touched on already:

Despite the guarantees on offer,  the owner of this site is very clear that if your item does nothing, it just sits on a shelf looking creepy as dolls are want to do, then the fault is yours. When you handed over your cash you should have handed over your inability to think critically too.