Thursday, 31 December 2015

Don't get your Hamptons Caught: Part 2: The "app"ening?

The Daily Star and several other tabloids reported on 29th December, a story centered  on a photo taken by bus driver Trevor Tye, which alleges to show the ghost of Catherine Howard stalking the hallways of Hampton Court gallery, specifically the area known as the Queen's staircase.

The image was taken in an area called the Queen's Staircase, and as you can tell it's highly filtered to make it brighter. A less filtered version has actually been circulating the internet for some time. This version below was taken from Haunted Earth's Ghost World, the article is dated January 2014, but states that Trevor took the photo in August 2012! The tabloids waited for four years to jump on this "amazing" evidence. They must be desperate.

What has changed between the two circulations of these photos is Tye's story of the circumstances surrounding it's capture, He tell's the Star, etc.., today: "Trevor Tye, 45, had driven a coach-load of tourists to the royal palace but ventured in to get pictures himself while he was waiting." They quote him as saying: "I was very careful when taking the picture to ensure no one was in the room - the last thing I wanted was someone ruining my shot."

This wasn't Tye's story back in 2012. From the aforementioned web page:
"The photographer, Trevor Tye was told to leave afterwards by Hampton Court staff as photography is strictly banned. Whether the reasons are conservational (to preserve art from camera flashes) or commercial (to sell their own photographs), nobody can confirm." Tye replies to this: "the reason I was asked to leave was not because of that photo, it was because I entered a roped off area in the cellars....I took this photo on my way out of the palace.and I can confirm that it isn't a real girl reading as the area had no body in...i waited ages for people to leave before locking the door for few mins to take photo,"
How long could Tye have waited if he was asked to leave? Surely he'd have beat a hasty retreat?

Also the Ghost World article alleges there are two ghosts. The other stood next to the little girl. This second ghost was conclusively debunked almost immediately by a user known as Sir Edward. Funny how it's been dropped in the latest apdaption of the story.

Another thing interesting to note is that Tye is not just a coach driver, as the Star eludes, he also lists himself on Bark as a paranormal investigator.

Hmm... The website for his group Middlesbrough Paranormal contains a gallery of images of visits from supposedly haunted locations. Many of them allege to show evidence of ghosts or spirits, most of which are nothing more than common garden orbs.

This seems odd for a man who stated this in the Mirror version of the story:
"Unfortunately the vast majority of ghost pictures you see are faked so I am really pleased to have caught something like this."
This one struck me.

Now, I'm pretty good at spotting an image that's been produced by a phone application. And after quite some time searching I think I found the face on the left. 

Unfortunately, it's not terribly definite. The face in Tye's image could just be pareidolia. I would have been far more convicted if I'd found Tye's man in a waistcoat. So I searched Ghost World: Haunted Earth  to try and find more stories with a connection to Tye. I found one, containing this image, which Tye claims was passed to him by a fellow coach driver, Craig Cooper.

This I could find.... Well.... I had a friend who could. Thanks to Anna Hill again! It's from the image manipulation suite 27 Ghost Brushes. Here's the image anna found laid next to Tye's original.

What should be very clear is that Tye is a very clever and careful app user. He either places the image in the background and extremely small, or in the foreground and extremely faint. Does this mean we should immediately assume that Tye's Hampton Court ghost is from an app? 

Not Necessarily. But Tye certainly isn't above faking a ghost picture. Another possibility other than photo manipulation  is a staff member in period costume or a member of the general public similarly dressed. The internet is jammed with images of people in period clothes at Hampton Court, even traversing that particular landing, not like the image below. 

What about the lady below, she could easily by mistaken for a ghost if snapped from far away.

The figure does seem to be reading an information panel intended for visitors. Presumably, any ghost haunting the building would be slightly bored of this after hundreds of years. Members of the general public visiting in period dress would be far more inclined to read tourist information, I would suspect.

That's if this even is a figure at all. An extreme zoom reveals that the figure appears halved. This leads me to believe what we are seeing is some trick of the light, pareidolia fills in the gaps and viola. Ghost.

Likewise, a negative of the image furthers I believe, shows this isn't a full figure or, in fact, a figure at all.
So.... what's the answer here?

 I don't see any reason to suspect ghost. Photo manipulation, the person who took the image has form after all, an actual person in period dress or some trick of the light and our own inbuilt tendency to make sense from random data. I can't conclusively rule out any of these naturalistic explanations, and there are lot's of  other rational possibilities left to be dismissed, of course, this isn't how the tabloids work.

One interesting thing to note is that the tabloids that feature the story all refer to the ghost as a little girl at some point, and as Catherine Howard at others. Howard, who is alleged to haunt Queen's staircase, was 21 when she died. Hardly a little girl. When it comes to ghost stories, consistency has never really concerned the tabloid media. 

If anyone can crack this I'd love to hear from you. 

Personally, I think it's the ghost of Twiki from Buck Rodgers. There's quite a similarity and he is about the right height....

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Caspers 2015: The Year's Worst Paranormal Photography.

So it's the end of the year, and what a year it's been for the advancement of paranormal photography. We certainly aren't making, all the same, mistakes we've been making for decades. No sir. *Ahem*

It's only proper that we celebrate this advancement with a trophy every bit as resplendent. It certainly isn't exactly the same as last year's trophy with a "5" crudely scratched on it with the pin of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles badge. Once again nominees are more than welcome to display this badge proudly on their websites and social media. You've earned it guys! As with last year the only criteria for entry the photo had to be shared or reported on during 2015, One change that you will note this year, the awards cover a broader subject matter than ghosts alone. This is simply because I had no idea last year that I may want to do this again, now that I am I'm going to need that wider range.

The "Would I Lie To You?" Award for being asked to take way too much on faith alone 2015.

RK Paranormal Facebook 26/12/15

Well, of course, it's not a human. I mean c'mon, it only looks exactly like a human and climbs stairs exactly like a human and was photographed in a hotel, traditionally a place where lots of humans tend to be found. If RK paranormal's word that this is DEFINITELY NOT a human isn't enough to convince you, then he offers the following corroborative evidence. Prepare for a logic masterclass.

So, Mr. Skeptic, let me ask you, what is more likely? That the spirit exists, continues after death, wanders disembodied around hotels. Or a woman chooses to wear white in winter. Erm... it's the last one isn't it. Well RK Paranormal does hit the nail on the head in the same thread.

Yes, evidence is indeed tough to catch. You've failed to do so, but you have won an award for asking us to take a ridiculous amount on faith alone.

Mother of three, Lisa Wildgoose took the photograph below in woods near her home.

The Mail reports:
"'As a little girl I grew up believing in fairies and Tinkerbell is my favourite film so I would love it be a real-life fairy,' said Miss Wildgoose, who lives close to the woods with her twin daughters. 'I don't know if Tinkerbell would really wear trousers but with the blonde hair and shiny shoes it's too much of a coincidence.'"
Errr... I kinda see it. But it's almost certainly an insect.

Also, Tinkerbell is her favorite film? Not even Peter Pan. Tinkerbell? I don't think so. Someone clearly hasn't seen Mac and Me. That's all I'm sayin'.

Speaking of the Mail.

The TTT  (Turgid Tabloid Toss) Award, Various tabloid Papers, 2015

Really spoilt for choice here. There's the Harry's Bar ghost, various tabloids, December 2015.  A quick look at the decor of the pub by Sally Grant revealed the nature of this apparition.

As was the case with the 8ft Waldorf ghost (The Mirror, January 2015)

Again this was explained by using features in the pub's decor, debunked here by Hayley Stevens in her Weakly Ghost Bulletin. But in terms of sheer attention and blind credulity few tabloid offerings top the "Samurai ghost", various tabloids, April 2015.

This one alleges to show the boots of the ghost of a samurai warrior stood behind a young girl in Zushi, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan. The image was brilliantly debunked by Fortean Times Reader, Don Cake, in the letter's page of the magazine's November issue. The image below is reproduced from Sharon Hill's Doubtful News. 

Don shows that the figure stood behind the young girl is likely a member of the local police force, identified by the sand boots issued to the officers in that area and the light blue shirt which can be seen beneath the left elbow of the young girl. The reason the full figure is not visible is due the slight incline behind the young girl.I doubt this will ever be a category that I struggle to fill, I could have chosen another ten stories that were equally facile and relatively easy to debunk.

The next award celebrates a relatively new phenom that has resulted in a few "ghost" images this year.

Best Newcomer Award 2016: The iPhone's Panoramic Feature. Two notable examples below.

The Fort Worth Museum Ghost, social media, October 2015.

And More Prominently the Hampton Court Ghost, Various tabloids, February 2015.

The feature was brilliantly explained here by Mick West of Metabunk. 

The interesting factor of these particular pictures being, one of the skeptic's main arguments against ghost photography is that the images of a certain period represent the various artifacts of that period's photographic equipment. Could this feature's effects be the "orbs" and "slow shutter speed" apparitions of the future? Will  Time will tell.

The"Orchid of Low-Hanging Fruit" Award for the site, page or group with more easily explainable "Paranormal" Photography than any other in 2015. paranormal,ghosts,spirits,orbs and astrology, Facebook. 

The sheer amount of dross posted on this page, with 29,000+ likes,  is a wonder to behold. To select the worst of the year would be a monumental task. Here's a selection from the 24 hours preceding me writing this.

It's an app!

Easily found and debunked. Here's a composite image of the ghost from the post, as it appears on the app and another example of its use. Despite me posting this, the debate over whether this was the woman in question or John Lennon (!) was still raging hours later.

Here's some of the other dross found on the page that day, none of which would more than a sentence to explain, which I do below. Why didn't I do it on the page? Wasted effort frankly, and it isn't often I say that. I debunked a mermaid photo last year for Christ Sake.

"An 'App'titude for fakery" Award for most unapologetic and flagrant use of a phone app: Haunted Perth, Facebook.

Let's be frank. If I was spoilt for choice with that TTT award, I'm literally inundated with options in this category. Facebook pages Paranormal Dustbusters, There's a (ghost) app for that, Ghost App Ghosts and Ghost Photo App Database Debunking Library all feature hundreds of examples of everyday people trying to pass off ghost app images as genuine paranormal photographs debunked. The key here being "everyday people," that's why I've gone for a paranormal investigation group who decided to fake a ghost image using an app.

Thanks to Craig Taylor, who provided the following images, and, with others, brought the team to task on their facebook page.

Here's the image the team shared on their Facebook page.

Craig found the app image and even overlaid it onto the original.

So how did the team react to this allegation? Firstly with the classic "expert consultation" and another example of "would I lie to you" trust requests.

Following this Haunted Perth deleted the photo, blocked their critics and changed their name to "The Haunted". So why is this example worse than any other? This is a group claiming to perform investigations, they charge to take members of the public on these investigations. I've met a lot of fine, intelligent, decent, methodical and above all else, HONEST paranormal investigators over the past few years, this makes a mockery of them all. 

And on that topic.

The "Put a shirt on mate" Award for dumbest looking paranormal group of 2015. The Melbourne Paranormal Foundation posted to Go Fund Me, October 2015.

TMPF posted the following image to a Go-Fund-Me page appealing for money towards "new equipment" 

Not sure if this image represents the team on an "investigation" but I'd be reluctant to provide with more money for "equipment" which to then appears to mean "automatic weaponry." Judging by their Go-Fund-Me page, I'm not alone in this reservation it seems. 

To help TMPF out, I've made some helpful suggestions as what they should spend that $5000 on if they ever reach it. Which they won't.
Unfortunately for this team, common sense cannot be bought.

The "Overachiever of the year" Award for the source in 2015 that provided more misattributed paranormal photos than any other, Mars, the solar system, 4.5 x 10^9 years.

Is there life on Mars? Probably not, but there has been a whole lot of pareidolia surrounding the images sent back by the Curiosity rover.

Is there mouse on mars? Daily Mail, November 2015.

Well, d'uh. Where's his motorbike though?

And it continues, rats, pyramids, crashed spaceships... Pareidolia people, look it up. The real shame about all of the above is, of course, there's a legitimate scientific breakthrough at the heart of this bullshit. We are examining another planet in more detail than ever before. Ironic that the images sent back are subject to our brain's innate primitive psychological prejudice which leads us to seek patterns in random visual input. Curiosity, thank you for reminding us how far we've come, and how far we've yet to go.

And finally an extremely late entry. The Inaugural David Rountree Award for obfuscating bullshit behind a haze of fancy words. Paracyptozoology,  Facebook, December 2015.

I'm going to let the admin of the page describe this image before I show it to you. Close your eyes, let him take you on a journey.... WAIT! Don't close your eyes! This isn't an audio blog... aw shit.... they can't read that. I just lost the lads at TMPF.  Here it is anyway for those that remain...

Surely this is worth the Rountree Award for the horribly garbled science presented in the statement "when their blood pressure goes up and their heart rate goes up, their particles spin is faster because their DNA is a much higher strand than ours... and thus they go completely invisible." alone. Even if it had some meaning, who the hell actually HAS Bigfoot DNA to examine? Here's the image, try not to be too disappointed.

I'll explain this with an economy of words clearly not available to Paracryptozoology.

 It's your breath mate.

Either that or cigarette smoke. What it isn't is a cloaked fucking Bigfoot. This guy must truly be at the end of his tether to try to pass this off as evidence of Bigfoot. Put this in you "personal dictionary" mate, "Bullshit" you may find it useful.

That'll be it for 2015 then. Thanks to everyone who made contributions to this post, especially the debunkers cited: Don Cake, Craig Taylor, Sally Grant, Hayley Stevens and Mick West. Also thanks to Anna Hill, who was not only instrumental in debunking the "Fort Worth Museum ghost" but provided the last minute "smoky Bigfoot" image, and a huge amount of app fakery for me to use which I simply couldn't fit in.  You'll find some awesome app identification from Anna on her blog "Memento Mori (My Macabre Fixation)" here.  The aforementioned Hayley Stevens wrote a great post on her blog "Hayley is a Ghost Geek" about the worst ghosts of 2015 here. 

As it's the end of the year it seems right to thank everyone who has supported both the blog and it's connected Facebook Page The Rational Paranormal, over the past twelve months. Every share and like on one of my posts means a massive amount to me and I'm extremely grateful for this support.

See you in 2016.

Friday, 25 December 2015

Stuffing a Turkey: Another Round With Rountree.

So I've been waiting awhile for David Rountree to respond to my criticism of his "academic paper", I've been waiting even longer for him to actually direct me to his doctoral thesis, which is still, as far as I'm concerned, non-existent. He has responded, in exactly the way a man of his academic stature would be expected to.

By telling me to engage in fellatio with multiple penises on facebook.


Frankly, David, I'd rather snack on a thousand sacks of genitals than swallow an ounce of the bullshit you feed your followers.

But I don't blame Rountree for gloating, noted physicist Michael Robishaw totally agrees with his research and findings. Wait did I say "noted physicist"? I meant "self-proclaimed Psychic healer, shamen and spiritual warrior", none of which qualify him to verify theories in physics. In fact lets be honest, the only reason a person surrounds himself with so many self-appointed bullshit titles is because he or she is fundamentally unremarkable otherwise.

So what was the cause of Rountree's gloating anyway? It turns out he'd read this article: Magnetic Wormhole created in lab published on IB times August 22nd 2015. Unfortunately for Rountree, he either didn't bother to read the article fully or didn't understand it... or there's a third possibility which I'll get to in a second.

The first line of the article Dave shared states: "A wormhole for magnets has been created by scientists in a laboratory. The wormhole is not of the space-time variety, but rather it tunnels a magnetic field from one point to another." So its not the type of wormhole which Rountree's theory relies on. This magnetic wormhole is a wormhole in name alone. Of course I let Rountree know this on Twitter, which resulted in him immediately blocking me after telling me to "get a life".

Blocking opponents of his, is nothing new for Rountree, and he's clearly avoiding a discussion regarding his wormhole theory. But there is something more insidious at work here in my opinion. Dave is protecting the fragile web of lies he has constructed around his scientific credentials. He knows that a public debate with anyone (quite literally anyone in his case) with the ability to punch holes in this faux "man of science" image risks the admiration and respect he has lied to garner. Rountree fears exposure more than anything else, that's why he claims to be a quantum physicist on YouTube and Twitter, but not on Research Gate a site for academics (see here). He knows that an actual academic would expose him as a fraud in seconds.

His opinion of his followers and fan's intelligence must be very low indeed. I think he's fairly confident that they won't understand the research he linked to and why it doesn't support his wormhole bullshit.

Rountree clearly thrives in an echo-chamber, and he has a few dotted around. For example, I was recently directed to this thread in the "Keeping the Paranormal Friendly" forum. Here Rountree exposes more of his bullshit pseudo-science. Laughably one particular section of Rountree's first post shows how fundamentally dishonest Rountree is. He plagiarises the following section but can't bare leave it in its original form. Check out the one adjustment:

"Researchers have no observational evidence for wormholes, until now. The equations of the theory of general relativity have valid solutions that contain wormholes. Because of its robust theoretical strength, a wormhole is one of the great physics metaphors for teaching general relativity."
Original source, Planetary

"Researchers have no observational evidence for wormholes, but the equations of the theory of general relativity have valid solutions that contain wormholes. Because of its robust theoretical strength, a wormhole is one of the great physics metaphors for teaching general relativity."
Laughably his addition of "until now" not only makes no grammatical sense, it's  directly contradicted by what follows!

Needless to say, Rountree's entire post plagiarises this source wholesale, unfortunately, he fails to perform a further edit and omit the following.

" Physicists have not found any natural process that would be predicted to form a wormhole naturally in the context of general relativity..."
Err... whoops...

Rountree is very much in his element in this forum, he clearly feels this is a safe space in which his bullshit is unlikely to be challenged. He's probably right. The moderator and some other posters fawn all over Rountree. He responds to this adulation by adopting a professorial tone, congratulating his mock students for not challenging his bullshit, such praise as "Yes, that's right Paige. Good memory."

But my favourite line is the following, the one utterance that should scream to anyone who has studied physics, that Rountree is not only a sham, but he literally doesn't have doesn't a blind clue. Really, this is a doozy.
"Well ignore the math. The math is used mearly for scientific verification of the concepts discussed. When you see the equations, just mentally say "Oh, this is the justufucation for the statement""
"Ignore the maths," said no physicist EVER.  Remember Dr Matt Hunt's words when he took a look at Rountree's quantum physics pdfs?
"There are no equations when talking about quantum mechanics which suggests he doesn't have the skills to understand them."
Rountree dismisses the importance of the mathematical foundations of physics because he can't do the maths. This is why there isn't a single use of mathematics in his "wormhole" paper.

 But Rountree doesn't just preach to the faithful to social media and forums, he also blogs to them mocking critics of his theory. In a post entitled "The Next Level" he writes:
"I will be doing my first attempt at artificially opening a wormhole this weekend..... This is a serious experiment based on my thesis work, so the outcome is very important to me. oh wait, i forget i lied about my educational credentials thus i am uneducated. Lol."
The level of arrogance here is astounding considering Rountree categorically DID lie about his education.

Much of the article focuses on the casimir effect, in the discussion of this Rountree massively misrepresents one of the main arguments of his critics:
"...the Casimir effect plays an important role in the chiral bag model of the nucleon; in applied physics, it is significant in some aspects of emerging microtechnologies and nanotechnologies.This is not theoretical. This is a proven and measured effect...."
Yes, that's true. But no-one is arguing this! Rountree's critics point out to him that WORMHOLES are theoretical not the casimir effect.

Speaking of the Casimir effect, Rountree laughably spells "casimir" and "resonances" wrong at several points throughout the piece. Now I think its pretty low to focus on an opponents spelling and grammar in a debate, its usually a fair sign that you haven't got much else to focus on, but there is a really good reason for my to focus on spelling here. Roundtree, you see, doesn't spell Casimir wrong throughout the account. In fact he switches between spellings.

This implies the Rountree is up to his old plagerism tricks, remember how I showed that his "paper" published on Research Gate was made up of a huge amount of text copy and pasted from Wikipedia? Well after I wrote that some inspired soul ran it through Grammarly and found that a whopping 44% of it was plagiarised! Take a look at the PDF here. Anyway back to this post. A quick scan on Plagscan of the first half of the post alone shows a staggering amount of plagiarism. Most comes from Rountree's go to source Wikipedia, other sites he has STOLEN from include Yahoo answers, the Anderson Institute and laughably Youtube comments sections!

If this doesn't persuade you that  Rountree has none of the expertise he claims nothing will, these aren't even legitimate scientific sources. If he is going to plagiarise, why Wikipedia and Yahoo answers? Why not published papers and peer reviewed journals? I suspect Rountree is so deluded, and crucially, not scientifically literate, that he can't identify a legitimate source. 

He further reveals this in his closing words:

I will at this time refrain from revealing any further details of the work, incuding protocols and equipment identification, configuration, and experiment protocols. Simply because its my work. I own it. And i want the stalkers and trolls to melt down from curiosity. Because…well….I can. More to come. Hopefully….
Sorry Dave that's not how legitimate science works, you have to reveal your methodology! Also you critics aren't stalkers and trolls, Criticism is a vital part of the scientific methods. What are you going to do when your research is actually brought before your peers for peer review? Tell them to get a life if they critique it? What about the projects which endeavour to replicate your results if they fail? Will they also be told to eat a bag of dicks?

Speaking of said interesting meal suggestion, mine has just arrived.

Merry Christmas Everyone!