Archive for January 2011
It annoys me to no end when people make a conversation or a situation all about themselves, they hi-jack something with their sense of self importance and you are supposed to be interested despite the fact that there are bigger issues at hand. I mean, seriously, is humanity really that ego driven that every tiny little thing has to suddenly become about certain people and how very wonderfully clever/special/gifted/young/creative/powerful/right they are?
The subject that I have “skeptical knowledge” in – ghost research – actually requires me to do stuff that extends beyond my facebook and twitter pages, with people who need help – and I also have a life within which I have numerous problems to be dealing with right now. Therefor I really will not be around online very much at all.
In fact I have decided to stop using twitter and facebook for a while because the way people behave and talk and show off is really quite depressing. I don’t have time for my own drama – why the hell would I have time for anyone elses?Especially when it’s usually so superifical?
If anyone actually needs me you can find me by email (it’s in my sidebar) or on skype or something.
Are you sitting comfortably? We’re about to travel through time and it can make you feel a little bit ill, but we’re not going far so you should be okay. Does anyone have any questions? Yes, you at the back.
What baby? Oh, that’s Patrick, he’s the pilot of this craft. What? No, this isn’t just a cardboard box! It’s a cardboard box that travels through time thank you very much.
Now, I’m just going to adjust this dial here to 2004… there we go, now, our journey shall begin. Oh, and before we actually set off – please don’t be alarmed by my hair – I was 17 and though it was cool.
Right, Take it away Patrick!
2004 – There I am, sitting on one sofa – my mum is on the other one, and we’re watching ‘Haunted Homes’ with that psychic Mia Dolan who goes into peoples homes and clears out the ghost.
It’s quite remarkable really because Most Haunted only goes into the big fancy locations that have ghosts but this show goes into peoples homes.
They have a resident skeptic by the name of Chris French, he’s the one who says it’s all “nonsense” and tries to come up with other theories about what has been witnessed.
“You can’t explain away full body apparitions!” I say as Professor French does his piece to camera, my mum nods wisely, and then silence descends once again as we’re thrown back into the investigation with Mia and her fancy latin chanting.
Look, I know we’re not meant to do anything that inteferes with our past selves, but I deserved that slap on the back of the head. Look! See! I’m putting it down to a passing ghost. It’s fine.
Right, now, is everybody in their seats? Good. I’m just setting the dial to 2005… and here we go…
2005 – An 18 year old me is sitting on the sofa, my mum is sitting on the other sofa and we’re watching another episode of Most Haunted. The curtains are drawn across because it’s midday and the beautiful sunshine coming through the window doesn’t really help to set the scene.
Yvette Fielding is on the screen (or a portion of her head is, anyway) and she is screaming. The room is silent as the ‘investigation’ unfolds on the screen in front of us.
It would be a little bit spooky if Derek Acorah hadn’t recently been posessed by the spirit of Kreed Kafer – a South African Jailer who didn’t actually exist.
See Kreed Kafer is an anagram of ‘Derek Faker’, it was a set up by the shows parapsychologist Ciarán O Keefe in an attempt to show that Derek might not be as truthful as he made out.
We are watching the newest DVD we have just bought for about £20 from ASDA. We have them all, and right now, as the 18 year old me is watching this episode, the Kreed Kafer incident is playing out in the back of my mind. Did you see that frown? Yep, that’s the doubt.
Right now the younger me is thinking ‘What else had this show lied to us about? Why had we so readily accepted their clarifications that everything on the show was legit?‘ I have started to realise that we have been really stupid.
In about a month or so I’m going to create WPR, or as it was named back then H.U.G.S (Have U got spooks?) – I was 18, don’t blame me. The team is then renamed Twelfth Hour Paranormal Investigations a year or so later.
Right, everyone back into the time machine. Just get in there! Okay, setting the dial to 2007. Patrick, start her up!
2007 – We’re standing in the function room of The Old Bell in Warminster. It’s a pub slash hotel and we’re doing a paranormal investigation. There are quite a few team members here as we recently recruited a load of new people. We didn’t really think things through and most of the people we let onto the team are what most skeptics would call “woo”.
You can see me over there in the corner, yes, the one who is sneering a bit. Yes. If you watch closely the penny is about to drop.
Keep watching… keep watching…
There! See! I shook my head. I shook my head in dismay but the others didn’t see it as they’re standing in a circle, holding hands and going “ommmm ommm”, but it happened and you saw it. I’ve just turned a corner.
In about three hours the Twenty year old me that is sat there sneering, frowning and generally about to kick off will write an email that basically rips the ‘Twelfth Hour Team’ into two. Three members will be left in the team and a wave of hateful backlash will be poured in our direction online by the “woo” members who left and started their own team.
In a few weeks I will meet a skeptic paranormal researcher called Trystan Swale who lives in Gloucestershire who I will start to talk to in emails and on a forum called Weird Wiltshire (where most of the hateful stuff about me is posted by ex-team members). In two years Trystan will ask me to co-host a podcast with him.
Anyway, after the split and the hate etc. Wiltshire Phenomena Research will be born. You see that tall woman over there leading the Ommm-ing session? She’ll take all the “woo” members and make her own team called “White Horse Paranormal” and attempt to spread that my team has disbanded. Only in a few months it will be her team that has disbanded and my team that has carried on until our current reality of 2011-
What? Yes I KNOW we’re in 2007, I mean the reality we come from. What? No I wasn’t born in 2011, I mean- look, just get back in the bloody time machine will you? I’m turning the dial to 2011.
2011 – It’s currently just under 28 days until I will be sitting on a panel at the QED conference being held in Manchester. I will be sitting alongside Professor Chris French, Dr Ciarán O Keefe and Trystan Swale.
My point is, it feels rather odd that in just over five years I have gone from being someone who sat on the sofa watching paranormal shows and drinking in all the lies as truths, to sitting on a panel besides the people who used to be on those shows who made me doubt the things I believed in. People who made me see the error of my ways and become more rational.
I will be sitting besides them and talking to a room of skeptics about ghost investigations today.
It’s incredible what can happen when you have a truly open mind and put your mind to something.
You can leave now, and don’t tell anyone about the time machine, okay?
*edit* I just found a third video. Ouch.
This is just a random (and rather embarrassing) blog post that I just HAD to make. As you may be aware, when I first got involved in ghost research in 2005 I wasn’t exactly what you would call rational. Like a sponge I absorbed all sorts of nonsense ideas and theories and held beliefs in all sorts of weird things.
I just found these two videos from the time before I became more skeptical, from when people would have been happy to call me a ‘woo’. These videos are from the time that I was part of a team called ‘Twelfth Hour Paranormal Investigations’ – don’t laugh!
I think they are proof that someone who has absorbed lots of nonsense can ‘see the light’ and can become more rational and aware of facts and logical fallacies.
Now, quite frankly, I used to be a coward on investigations – I was so scared at one location once that I vaulted over (OVER) a team mate who is five foot tall. One moment I was behind her in a narrow hallway where two people couldn’t stand side by side, and the next moment I was in front of her, using her as some sort of a shield against whatever had made a noise behind me.
Neither of us are sure how I got on the other side of her to this day.
The first video is from an investigation in a pub. There were three of us on the ground floor moving around in the dark (groan) when suddenly there was an odd noise behind me. The second is audio taken from a dictaphone of us all panicking when we hear strange noises in the kitchen of a location. We later discovered the noises were an ice machine (how humiliating…)
The third is in a guest room of a famously haunted pub – you can see me in the background. I think my reaction to the tapping noises is hilarious.
So yeah, enjoy… and don’t judge me, I’ve become a lot… braver. Honest.
04/01/11 Update: At the time this blog post was written I was not aware that the newspaper that originally wrote about the ‘poltergeist’ contacted the home owner and not the other way around. I also did not know that the home owner didn’t claim to have a poltergeist or that the team didn’t conduct a traditional exorcism, just a ‘spiritual cleansing’. I could only go on what the paper had reported.
I have no criticism for Holly, the home owner, as I wouldn’t with anyone who is witnessing strange goings on. My criticism lies with the paranormal investigators and their methods.
My points in the blog post about the ethics involved were speculation as I did not know the relationship between the investigators and the home owner. I hold my hands up and admit I should have found out first, but this does not detract from the fact pseudo-scientific methods were used and assumptions were made based on flawed research.
Education is the key to banishing ghosts, and by that I mean the idea of a ghost being responsible for something scary that is happening.
*When I say ‘Education’, I mean education about paranormal investigation methods and logical causes of phenomena. Not the education of the people witnessing strange phenomena.
I don’t want to banish the idea of ghosts existing because I’m always open to the suggestion that a ghost (whatever one of those actually is) is the cause of reported phenomena, but I also know it is more likely that something more logical is the cause of what has been experienced.
It is these things that any decent researcher of paranormal phenomena focusses on when dealing with a report.
Encouraging those who are witnessing odd phenomena to think rationally and to try to work out rational causes for what they’ve witnessed is a great way to banish the idea that everything odd was caused by a ghost.
However, not every paranormal researcher is interested in doing that. They may claim to be rational, to be ‘researchers’, to use science on their cases – but aren’t and wont, and actually just let their biases rule their investigations. They are more interested in finding ghosts than finding the true cause for what has been witnessed.
Which is fine, until they enter somebodies home – especially when that person is terrified and confused.
Recently I was made aware of this article about Holly Taylor who after moving into her current home started to experience odd stuff such as:
Dishes flying out of cupboards, lights turning on and footsteps keeps the young mother awake at nights.
She had gone to the media in the hope she could find someone who could provide an exorcism to get rid of the ghost that she felt was causing these things. It’s likely she was actually just after someone who could provide her with answers about what was happening.
I only wish I had thought to ask a BARsoc member to get in touch with her to help reassure her that there was probably a perfectly rational cause to the stuff she witnessed. Alas, it’s too late…
On their facebook group they describe themselves as:
…a serious group and are all searching for the same thing, we ask you join us with respect and decency for all who attend be it living or spirit 🙂 we can have a laugh and a giggle and are no means boring “train spotters” but we are serious investigators and like to get a job done properly.We have regular meetings to discuss where and when our next investigation is and are open to any suggestions you may have, we don’t bite….HARD!!
so come along and join us if you think you got what it takes to be scared out your wits 🙂 thanx.
I am appalled at what they did. I’m not going to hide this fact with fancy writing. Let me break down their investigation and why I am appalled.
[the team] spent the night in the flat with a variety of technological instruments including an electromagnetic field meter (which at times almost went off the scale despite being nowhere near electrical appliances), and a voice recorder.
The team heard breathing and clicking noises and also a series of tappings by which they attempted to communicate.
The taps appeared to be coming from Willow’s bedroom which was empty (the youngster was sleeping in another room).
And as the questions they asked about who was there were answered, the meter would leap from green to red.
Lets stop right here.
Firstly, it takes more than one night to really get to the gritty details of a case. They spent ONE night there – how do they know what is and isn’t normal in the location?
The meter leapt from green to red because it was picking up the electromagnetic field in the building. You don’t have to be sitting next to a socket to pick up EMF.
The team have gone into the home of this young mother who is so scared she has gone to the media to ask for an exorcism and they have already decided in their minds that there is a ghost in the home.
Why else would they aim to communicate with a ghost?
Biased investigations like these are unethical, misleading and shameful.
The tapping noises could have been caused by a number of things (I don’t know for sure, I wasn’t there) but do I really need to point out that even if they couldn’t find a source for them, it doesn’t mean it was a ghost?
As for hearing breathing… that is their interpretation of a noise, there is no way they can be certain it was breathing – they have gone into this ladies house with the preconceived notion that there is something paranormal there and everything that has happened has been forced to fit that notion.
They also used what is known as a Frank’s Box, which picks up radio station white noise and occasional words.
The Frank’s box, or ghost box as it is often referred to, is one of the most ridiculous pieces of equipment on the ghost hunting market. They even say in the article that it picks up on radio stations and white noise – the clue to the ‘words’ they are hearing is right there they’ve just ignored that fact.
…through these two forms of communications, Emma and her team concluded that they were talking to a woman who had died in a fire and needed help to “cross over” – although, perplexingly, the name Simon kept coming through too.
Again, this is their interpretation of the noises they had coming through the Frank’s box, and they have the preconceived notion there was a ghost there – their investigation was flawed and biased from the word go.
Photographs taken during the night also showed grey orbs, about the size of tennis balls, floating in the air which no one had seen at the time.
…and the icing on the cake is the fact that they have made the decision that orbs, the most debunked ‘phenomena’ out there, is proof the place had a ghost there.
These investigators have conducted what I consider to be an unethical investigation and have unintentionally misled Holly into thinking they have removed the entity that is responsible for the things she witnessed.
It’s likely she wont experience what she had before because in her mind the ghost is gone, a bit like a placebo effect of sorts. However, all it takes is for one dish to fall out of the cupboard, or for one noise to be heard and she is back to square one.
Only this time, in her mind she has the knowledge that this team have contacted the ghost of a woman who died in a fire, and so in her mind everything is 100% because of a ghost.
Their entire investigation was based on flawed understandings of the tools and methods they were using and their own biases towards a ghost being the cause of the phenomena.
The worst thing about this whole thing is that they didn’t just mislead themselves, they went into a stranger’s home and misled her too.
I just had this summary of my blog emailed to me by wordpress. It’s quite interesting that the most views came to a blog about the new television show that aired over Halloween where ‘scientific ghost investigation’ was pitched against ‘spiritualist investigation’ by a group of people who didn’t know what scientific investigation actually was.
For me it reinforces the importance of a skeptical presence in the paranormal research field, because people really do come looking for information about not only this show, but other paranormal related topics I write about too.
A quick look this morning at the search terms that led people to my blog reveals:
‘why aren’t ghosts naked?’, ‘why are ghosts cold’, ‘orbs in photo’, ‘paranormal television’, ”laser grid ghost hunting’, ‘ghost hunter laser grid’, ‘laser grid detects ghost’, ‘ghost hunter + trespassing’, ‘how does glass divination work?’, ‘undercliff sanatorium’, ‘most haunted skeptics’
…as some of the most popular search terms – the laser grid was encouraging because it was a silly trend in ghost research that was started by the ridiculous ‘ghost hunters’ television show, and I can only hope that all those people who read my post may have reconsidered using one and wasting their money.
I will continue blogging into 2011 about paranormal research and ghost hunters and haunted places because this summary has shown me that people really are interested (even if some skeptics think I’m wasting my time – something the stats disagree with…)
This summary didn’t take into account the post I made on December 30th that had 2,151 hits on Thursday (but I’ll forive them :p)
Have a look, it is quite interesting!
The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.
In 2010, there were 169 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 114 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 32mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.
The busiest day of the year was October 19th with 1,976 views. The most popular post that day was Paranormal Investigation: Live.
Where did they come from?
The top referring sites in 2010 were wordpress.com, hayleyisaghost.co.uk, networkedblogs.com, twitter.com, and facebook.com.
Some visitors came searching, mostly for hayley stevens, paranormal investigation live, hayley stevens skeptic, love, and Ghost hunter laser grid.
Attractions in 2010
These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.
Paranormal Investigation: Live October 2010
78 comments and 60 Likes on WordPress.com
About April 2010
How greaseproof paper will fool the hell out of a ghost, and other things…May 2010
Talks & things June 2010
Being nice really isn’t a bad thing. July 2010
So, from my ‘Happy new year’ post to this one. It’s five hours into 2011 and I am wide awake as I cannot sleep because the whole situation that shouldn’t have, but did arise with the SAVN and AVN, from my original blog post about being a disillusioned skeptic has been bugging me ever since the comments started rolling in. I realised people didn’t get what I meant to say – probably my fault for not understanding their confusion.
Also, another one of my blog posts got featured on the front page of wordpress and I was flooded with comments to that (over 200 in one day, which for me is a huge amount) so I wasn’t able to focus fully on what was being said on my other blog post.
The original blog post (the disillusioned skeptic one) wasn’t about the AVN alone, it wasn’t about people like Meryl Dorey who are the cause for the things that skeptical people work against. I know such people require an extra effort (so to speak) when being handled as they are the source of the problem.
I know because I’ve interviewed such people (not Meryl), but I have also interviewed people who simply believe in the things they hear that, to me don’t make sense, but to them do. Alt-Med practitioners who clearly haven’t thought their ideas through and stumble over simple questions about their theories, people who believe they’ve seen alien spacecraft shooting lasers at cows and things – these are the people I was referring to when I spoke of not being able to mock people or look down on people for what I think are nonsense ideas.
I only wish I had clarified this in that original blog post, but I don’t have a time machine, and it’s too late as I’ve already made the mistake and, clearly from comments and communication with people over the last couple of days, lost the respect of many and made myself look like an idiot – but I can cope with that.
However, I wanted to share this email exchange between myself and Meryl after The S.A.V.N have taken it into their minds that I’m some sort of a hypocrite and idiot. I also should point out that I deleted comments off of the ‘my blog and the AVN?’ post because of information I received via email from someone who had read my blogpost about the Andy guy that was posting – you can email me if you want the info that made me delete the comments. I’m happy to share it.
Dear Hayley,I didn’t want to post to your blog because I fear that you are already a target for those same people in SAVN who have been targeting me for the last 2 years and I already feel guilty about inadvertently causing you any problems.I just wanted to say a great big thank you to you (in private 🙂 for so clearly stating what your vision of scepticism should be and how it should not include abuse and vilification.In the 21 years since I started researching this issue, there has been opposition to my stance, but it has always been respectful – we agree to disagree and that sort of thing. We never try to tie a noose around anyone’s neck and tell them that they must look at both sides – we are just there for those who are searching.It was a great shock to me, therefore, to be the target of such vile, in some cases violent, in others pornographic – and many times outright threatening contact from people who didn’t know me, had never spoken to me and yet wanted me dead, maimed or in gaol because we disagree on one subject.You are a breath of fresh air Hayley.All the best,Meryl
Firstly, yes you have caused me problems with the people from that facebook group for the S.A.V.N because they think that I am somehow being more civil to you and, I guess the AVN as well, and taking your side in a debate that I’m not really much involved in, and I am not taking your side at all.
I’m not going to include reasons here because you’ve heard it all before from skeptical people who are also a ‘breath of fresh air’ too. Not all skeptical and rational people who campaign against the AVN are rude and vile as you have described, just as not all skeptical people and rational people are as I described in my blog post/s.
Today I was gutted to receive a personal message on facebook from the parents on Dana McCaffery telling me that they had read the whole situation my blog post had caused and wanted to explain to me why people from the S.A.V.N had a mixed view and interpretation of my blog.
Around this time last year I proudly nominated and awarded them the ‘skeptic of the year’ award from the podcast I cohost because even though it wouldn’t and couldn’t make a difference, it showed that I admired their bravery and courage in the face of disgusting oppositional behaviour.
I didn’t want my simple observation about the skeptical community to drag me into some sort of uncertain middle ground between the S.A.V.N and AVN supporters, but that is what has happened.
My criticism of the skeptical community in my first blog post was not the same as your criticism of the skeptical community – I can see that now and only wish I had realised that sooner because it would have stopped a lot of decent people thinking that I’m some sort of heartless idiot.
It took a message from two people who inspired me a year ago to make me realise that a terrible mistake has been made here and, although this email may seem harsh and to the point, I need you to realise that you and I have no common ground, and we probably never will.
I respect your right to believe what you personally want, but I do not respect what you believe and the ways in which you promote those ideas. Not one bit.
If you still think I’m ‘doing it wrong’ or still don’t understand where I stand on the skepticism ‘thing’ then feel free to ask.
Today is January 1st 2011 and is typically a time of the year when most people blog about their past year, what they’ve learnt and their aspirations for the new year ahead. I’m not going to be doing that I’m afraid because there is one thing that each new year has taught me as I’ve grown older – life is unpredictable.
This time last year I wouldn’t have guessed that what has happened in the last 365 days would have happened, some of what has passed would have seemed impossible, and some too depressing to even consider.
I look forward to the future and whatever it may bring, and I wish each and everyone of you well for the next 365 days. Then it will be 2012 and we’ll only have 359 days left to live… or so I’m told by numerous reliable* sources.