Thursday, 4 January 2018

Unmasking the Indonesian 'female vampire-ghost'.

The first rule of click-bait. Try to appeal to as many people as possible to maximise the the number of hits and therefore revenue heading your way. When it comes to paranormal click-bait this means throwing in a few mixed terms to maximise your appearances in search engines. A common example of this would be 'ghost/demon' or even the less logical 'ghost/alien' or 'alien/demon' combinations. What's another good combination; how about ghost/vampire/possession? That will really capture the imagination of paranormal enthusiasts. Thus the British tabloids were likely jumping for joy when the following 'chilling' image, allegedly showing a 'vampire-ghost' possessing the body of a female bar-patron, dropped into their laps yesterday.

The image was taken by Indonesian police during a vice-raid on a karaoke bar in East Java on Friday. It quickly went viral as images alleging to show supernatural beings are want to do. It was also quickly checked out by 'paranormal expert' Ahmad Hasyim at the request of Indonesian media outlet Detik (1). Hasyim, an expert after-all, told Detik that he believed the image was a Jinn taking the form of a 'female vampire ghost' known as a Kuntilanak (also known as a Pontianak) in Indonesian folklore (2) obscuring the face of the young lady. The image was circulated by the Asian wire news service where it was picked up by British tabloids the Star (3) and the Mirror (4).

Paranormal expert, Ahmad Hasyim. Not an expert on ladies fashion apparently. 

Whilst both tabloids make it clear in their articles that Indonesian police have denied that this was any kind of supernatural being, and also urged people to stop showing the image out of concern that it may cause public panic, what they don't mention is that the police have also categorically debunked the image by releasing other images that were also taken that night.

The images clearly reveal that it wasn't a 'spirit' concealing the suspect's face, but a rather fetching floral scarf. The glowing eyes were likely a result of the flash used to take the image. Hard to figure whether the journos at the Mirror and the Star conveniently ignored this information or simply didn't do the slightest bit of research. Again, just another example of lazy, click-bait journalism.

Not much has changed in the time I've been away.

Speaking of which, if you're wondering what I've been up to whilst things have been quite over here you can catch up with my articles for Scisco media on my author's page here. Writing for Scisco has thus far been a fantastic opportunity to introduce skeptical ideas to a news website. Never in my wildest imagination did I ever believe that an up and coming news website would publish my articles on things like the physics of ghosts and dowsing. Just by popping over and regularly reading my articles and sharing them on social media you lend me a huge amount of support.

As for the year ahead on the Null Hypothesis blog, I'm currently working on outlining an  EVP  protocol which highlights how I think some current EVP practitioners are going off the rails, I'm also developing a frame-work to help readers assess science news they encounter and how to identify good science sources. This is all in addition to continuing to debunk paranormal and pseudo-science stories such as the one above.

I hope you all have a happy 2018 and enjoy what is to come.





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