Thursday, 2 March 2017

The Daily Star and The Chilean Poltergeist: Upping The Ante On Fake News.

At a time when everyone is talking about "fake news" and which news sources and stories should be deemed "fake" The Daily Star has taken the bold move to claim the title in perpetuity. Their stunning effort to capitalise on the fake news phenomena comes with this story from 28/02/17, entitled "Chilling video of family home so HAUNTED it was evacuated by police." 

The report tells us of a Chilean family allegedly forced to flee their home after calling the police to investigate an alleged haunting.
"Officers were called to the property after reports of a fire but when they arrived the residents admitted they had actually called because of the strange activities happening inside. They claimed objects had begun floating and moving. Video of the alleged poltergeist has been published online."
The Star links a video at the top of the page and gives a description of the events that take place in the video.
"In the clip a light fitting seems to sway all by itself before a broom in the corner moves. Objects on the kitchen counters including a frying pan then move before a cupboard door flies open. Finally, a bucket flings itself across the floor. While the authenticity of the video cannot be guaranteed, officers who were called to the house in Puerto Montt, Chile, claimed they were attacked by a knife that jumped out of nowhere."
So far, so fake right? So what makes this one stand out from the average piece of ghost "news" offered by the Star or any other tabloid?  Perhaps the fact that the video the Star links and describes in the article was not filmed recently, nor was it filmed in Chile. It was actually filmed in Cork, Ireland and was uploaded to facebook by user Ashy Murphy in September 2015. As of yesterday, the original video had received over 23 million views.

Let's play spot the difference!

Facebook, Sept 2015.




The Star, 28th Feb 2017.



Here's that original version:



The beauty of the original "Ashy Murphy" version of the video is that not only is the original sound is present, but the video is clearer and far less pixelised. This makes it child's play to spot the wires that Ashy has used to achieve her "poltergeist" effect. The final shot of the video being particularly striking.

Now let's play spot the fishing wire!



Wire or thread is also visible on the cupboard door that opens, but it's far less striking and glimpse and you'll miss it.


You can watch Oskar Jungell replicate the effects of Ashy's video below:


There is an actual video (below) that represents the story the Star is reporting on, and the story itself isn't a complete fabrication. It's clear why the Star didn't use the correct video from watching it, as you can below. It's remarkable only for how unremarkable it is.


Essentially all we see is a pillow fly across a room, not convincing in any way. I believe that the Star reporter intentionally attached a more interesting, more eventful video to this article in an attempt to "spice it up" for the simple reason that would illicit more shares, more clicks and more revenue.

It's not every day that you can highlight the Star as lacking even their usual bar lowering standard of journalistic ethics.

I recently appeared on the Spooktator podcast to discuss this story and others with Hayley Stevens and the crew. It was a great discussion if you'd like to watch that discussion it's here: