Weapons Grade Bollocks.

You might notice that I don’t usually post on the same topic more than once per week. That’s because I’ve usually said all I can think about for that area and posting again just feels like I’m repeating myself. So in essence skepticism was done for the week after I posted my rant yesterday about alt-med and I set off on trying to find something else new and interesting to blog about. So you can imagine my frustration when over a morning coffee a news story pops up that flared up my bullshit detector and sent me into a wild skeptical flail. The story itself? Ghosts appearing in photos in a cemetary:

DOES this photograph show the figures of two children, born nearly a century apart, walking in their own paranormal playground?

The family who took this picture while on a ghost tour in Picton, NSW,  swear there were no children inside the St Mark’s Cemetery.

Which begs the question: who, or what, is out there?

Local legend has it that the two children are David Shaw and Blanche Moon, who died 60 years apart.

Just so I don’t explode from the sheer amount of stupid that’s emanating from the media outlets that are lapping up this story (even when it’s not a slow news day, what with Prince William being here) let me tear down why this story, and indeed all stories like this, are pure weapons grade bollocks.

The first problem I see with this story is that the picture was from a digital camera. It’s not explicitly stated but the family said when they “uploaded” the photos they saw the children who weren’t there when they took the photo. Right off the bat this shows that they could have easily been altered and the lack of the original hi-res photo makes inspection for alterations difficult. The reporter on the news this morning said inspection of the photo showed no alterations since the noise appeared to match the background.

Ok sure it’s not like we can add in noise to pictures afterwards… oh wait yes we can. It’s rather trivial to put objects into a photo that weren’t there in the first place, blur them slightly and then add film grain over the top to make it appear like the photo was an original. Plus the size of the image floating around is ridiculously small with JPEG compression knocking out a good whack of detail. Additionally none of the images on the web contain the EXIF data either, which is basically a fingerprint of data the camera leaves on every shot it takes. This has all the makings of a faked image if I ever saw one.

What gets me though is that the locals were so quick to jump on the bandwagon and say who the children were. I mean really can you even make a face out in those pictures? As far as I can tell they’re the same kid and you’d have zero chance of identifying anyone with a shot that blurry. So of course the local legend must be right since the picture is of 2 kids. Usually something like this would flounder on the back pages but somehow its made its place amongst a prince visiting our country and the tragedy in Haiti. Smells like a PR stunt to me.

As you can probably tell I never buy this kind of bull that seems to come my way every so often. These kinds of things play on people’s inbuilt fear of death and hopes for an afterlife, something which I don’t believe should be used for material gains. Whenever you see something like this take a step back and ask yourself “How hard would it be to fake that?”. 99.999999999999999999999% of the time you’ll think of ways pretty quickly, in the other cases it’s a complicated illusion that will take you a lot longer to pick apart. There’s a reason why a lot of magicians out there are also rabid skeptics.

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  1. I’m quite fancinated with paranormal things. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. Not that I believe everything I see/hear, I just find paranormal things this interesting. I love watching those ghosthunter/paranormal shows on foxtel and scaring my socks off, much to Brett’s distain. I know they are probably all faked, I just can’t help myself! I also love watching stuff like Supernatural and Medium! Have I lost your respect yet? XD

    My favourite “ghost image” was taken in 1966 by Rev. Ralph Hardy. It’s of a supposed ghost climbing up a staircase. It likely a fake, but I think it’s just a wicked example of long exposure image that creates a ghosty effect.

    Link: http://i12.photobucket.com/albums/a214/basilrocks/494a86a2.jpg

    More info in it here if you are so inclined at the link below. It leans towards the view that it’s the real deal, but it’s got some history which you may find interesting.

    http://www.psican.org/alpha/index.php?/20081124173/Ghosts-Hauntings/Tiptoe-Up-The-Tulip.html

  2. I have a similar kind of interest but more about trying to figure out how they did it. The above one was a bad example, way too easy to guess. But some of the other ones are a real challenge and I might spend hours thinking about it. Same goes for magic tricks, the really good ones are pretty much impossible to figure out 🙂

    The picture is very much in the realm of Pareidolia, where certain stimuli trigger parts of our brain to make us think there’s something there when it isn’t. There’s quite a lot of things that could’ve caused something like that but its an interesting effect none the less. I’d say it was a random combination of different things that lead to it and not deliberate manipulation, much like all them grilled cheese sandwiches that end up having Jesus show up in them.

    I just get all ansy when the media starts reporting things like this as fact.

     

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