Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fact or Faked: The Paranormal Files

I watched Fact or Faked: The Paranormal Files today and had some questions. First, I enjoy the show and am all in favor of anything that brings a note of skepticism and research into these tales. But I sometimes wonder if they know the answer before they attempt their recreations.

Not all that long ago they aired some footage of a nighttime object falling that broke into three pieces before fading out. They interviewed a couple, here meaning a man and woman which I believe were mother and son, who had seen the lights and were puzzled by them. But they didn’t interview the photographer who took the video footage and who was known to them, about it.


They eventually put together a scenario that made sense, that is, parachutists with flares strapped to their boots. They confirmed that members of the Army’s Golden Knights expert parachute team had been practicing in the area and had been using flares. Nothing faked here, but an explanation in the mundane.

Good for them... but I wondered why they hadn’t interviewed the cameraman. He worked for a local TV station and would have had access to all sorts of equipment. But they didn’t talk to him... or rather, we saw no footage of them interviewing him. I suspect it was because he knew what he had filmed. Oh, maybe not right away, but by the time the team from Paranormal Files arrived, I suspect he knew the answer.

I mention all this because in the latest episode they had footage of a UFO crash that was taken at White Sands Missile Range in 1996 or 1997. The bright object comes down, strikes the ground, skips upwards, falls and then crashes and explodes. They went to New Mexico to see what they could learn about this event.

They never made onto the White Sands Missile Range, or if they did, they showed nothing from that. Instead, they showed warning signs about the range, a long distance photograph of it, and a short interview with a UFO researcher who didn’t even know that the unit at Roswell was the 509th Bomb Group and not a squadron, let alone much about anything else... or rather the interview seemed to show that.

Then they were off to California where they conducted their experiments. They made some elaborate attempts, eventually using a model rocket fired at a low angle that did skip across the ground but did not explode. They suggested that if the object in the film was some of sort of missile test that got away from those at White Sands, it wouldn’t have been designed the way a model rocket engine is. In other words, the White Sands test might well have exploded.

While their last attempt does resemble the original footage, I still wonder why they went to New Mexico and didn’t do anything there. Why didn’t they hit the missile range and ask some questions. At worst, they would have been turned away at the gate. The last time I was there, I had to show proof of auto insurance to get on the base but had no trouble. I’m sure that someone in the public affairs office would have been delighted to speak with them. It just struck me as a hole in their investigation.

They did no better with the second segment which was of a ghost taped in a Tonopah, Nevada cemetery. The image that had been captured on tape was striking in the way that it appeared, moved across a short stretch of the cemetery and then disappeared.

They noticed that the appearance of the phantom seemed to coincide with the lights on a nearby highway. They set up an experiment to test this and were able to recreate the image on their equipment. The answer seemed obvious, but one of those reviewing the tape mentioned there had been many eyewitnesses to these apparitions. He was suggesting that there might be something paranormal there because of the multiple reports.

Not so fast. I had spent time at the site of the Joplin Spooklight and know there are hundreds of witnesses to it. But that doesn’t make it a spirit or ghost. It is quite obvious that the Spooklight is the result of light refraction from a nearby section of highway. So, a boatload of eyewitnesses does not mean the Spooklight is anything paranormal. It means that those people have seen an ambiguous light and identified it as something paranormal. The same would apply to the Tonopah apparition.

My point here is that I am a little surprised at the direction some of their investigations take. I’m surprised that they don’t interview those I would think would be critical to understanding what is being seen and photographed and taped. It seems to me that they leave out some steps... but eventually get to the correct answers... and that, I suppose, is the real point.

16 comments:

Terry the Censor said...

I have not seen the episode but it seems you're saying, very diplomatically, that by skipping basic journalist practices, 1) they are needlessly drawing out the suspense and 2) trying to position their crew as being a scientific unit rather than being a mere contrivance of the casting department.
If so, you are probably correct. I would also add: judging by other episodes, there seems to be a calculated effort to make these pathetic "mysteries" seem difficult to solve, thus sparing a credulous audience from the blunt revelation that they are credulous buffoons.

purrlgurrl said...

It's television. Worst of all, it's reality television. You were expecting Nobel prize-worthy research? On SyFy?

Autumnforest said...

Great post! I loved the premise of the show and then they hired and shuffled around a bunch of pretty young faces and said they were experts. They need some grizzled seasoned skeptics and some people who are less self conscious and awkward. It's like watching high school kids trying to construct an experiment by rigging milk cartons into a floating device. I know a lot of shows run into this issue with getting places too long after something happened. Finding Bigfoot has had the same issue where something was solved before they arrived. Ben Hansen did a one on one interview with me one time and said he wished to be able to turn the thing into a team of investigators ready to jump and be mobile the second something makes the news. Of course, that's expensive, like running a news show and Syfy can't control production on something they can't storyboard ahead of time. It's doomed to failure with their rotating cast of younguns that are vapid and dull.

Xấu zai said...

Worst of all, it's reality television. You were expecting Nobel prize-worthy research? On SyFy?

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rdc1969 said...

Why do they always shoot down Jael's videos? I really don't care for the 2 newest cast members.