The Amazing Meeting 2014

Like it? Share it!

Sign up for news and updates!






Enter word seen below
Visually impaired? Click here to have an audio challenge played.  You will then need to enter the code that is spelled out.
Change image

CAPTCHA image
Please leave this field empty

Login Form



Fact or Faked: Faked! PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Karen Stollznow   

From the Syfy network that inflicted us with Ghost Hunters, Mary Knows Best, Destination Truth and other unreality reality television, comes Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files.

Billed as the “Mythbusters of the Paranormal,” a title coveted but undeserved by every paranormal show in existence, Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files supposedly “revolutionizes paranormal programming by investigating the evidence witnesses post on the Internet every day. Have you ever seen a photo or video online and wondered, 'Is this real?' This is the show that will answer that question.”1

But does the show answer that question correctly, and truthfully? And is the very question honest?

The show examines paranormal claims found online, to determine whether the phenomenon captured is, well, “fact or faked.” As we will see, it seems the producers are the ones doing the faking.

The investigative team is comprised of amateur “experts.” There is Ben, the former FBI agent; Jael, the journalist; Larry, the special effects guy; Austin, the stuntman; Chi-Lin, the photography expert; and Bill, the “scientist.” All boast a background in paranormal research.

However, the team’s research methods are questionable. Quite rightly, their approach is to recreate anomalous phenomena, but they often recreate the phenomena badly, or recreate phenomena that are irrelevant. They mistake scientific tools for the scientific method. They aren’t familiar with basic principles of skepticism, such as Ockham’s razor. In their conclusions, the unexplained becomes the “inexplicable” and the team often appeal to supernatural explanations over natural ones.

But determining whether footage is “fact or faked” still doesn’t determine whether it’s paranormal or not. Even if the phenomenon and filming is legitimate and not staged, that doesn’t presuppose that it is paranormal.

For example, in one episode, the team visits Fishers, Indiana, to investigate a “Cemetery Phantom”. The evidence featured footage of a bright light, and increased EMF activity near the tombstone of a Civil War soldier. To examine the case the team devises some experiments to reproduce the effects, and collect some examples of Electronic Voice Phenomena (recordings of alleged spirits). They theorize that the original video is evidence of paranormal phenomena, and conclude that the film had captured either the “ghost of a civil war soldier” or a “ghost train” because the cemetery is located near a former railroad crossing.

What it takes them 30 minutes to falsely prove, it takes one scientific paranormal investigator 3 minutes to disprove. Doctor Atlantis aka Blake Smith of the Monster Talk podcast examined the footage and the theories and produced his own skeptical analysis.2 For all of the team’s elaborate tests and elaborate theories, they never once review the clip in slow motion. In doing so, Smith revealed that the unearthly “train” was an earthly spider on a web. “Oh what a tangled web we weave…when we run around in the dark with video cameras,” he concludes.

Even on the show’s online forums hundreds of viewers deduced that the footage revealed a spider, and overall they criticize the show’s research methods and conclusions.
But this article discusses an episode that never even made it to air.

On You Tube there is a viral video called Ouija Board: Planchette moves on its own! 3 This footage has enjoyed over 85,000 views. In this clip, two people are playing with a homemade Ouija board, when the planchette spells out the name “Lisa.” Suddenly, the planchette moves across the board, seemingly of its own accord, to rest on the letter “X.” The participants appear scared and jerk their hands off the planchette. They attempt the reading one last time, again the planchette moves by itself, and the frightened participants end the session promptly. They gently accuse each other of “pushing” the planchette, as does a third, unseen camera person in the background, but they all staunchly deny any trickery was involved. To demonstrate that there are no magnets or wires involved the camera person films below and above the Ouija board. Fact or faked?

The video was actually created by skeptics. Produced by the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society (RMPRS), the video was part of a promotional gimmick for a TV project called Colorado X. This is the significance of the planchette moving back to the “X”. But the planchette wasn’t moved by spirits, demons or even the ideomotor effect. It was moved by string.
To achieve the movement, fishing wire was fed through a hole in the center of the “X” on the board, and attached to the front leg of the planchette. A fourth unseen participant was sitting to the right side of the board, holding the string. At the appropriate time, the string was tugged and the planchette darts across the board, landing on the “X” as though this were a message from beyond.
In the viewer comments section, one may read a range of theories to explain the phenomenon, with very few skeptical explanations.

Along came John Maas, producer of Fact or Faked. Scouting for paranormal footage online, Maas and his staff discovered the video and thought it perfect “evidence” for an episode of the show. But the footage wasn’t fantastic enough. Without ever asking if the footage was fact or faked, Maas asked the group to re-film the scene to emphasize that no string or magnets were used, but… to also show the planchette moving more dramatically across the board. The producer of Fact or Faked was asking the group to fake the video.

The RMPRS immediately contacted both D.J. Grothe and I, and we advised they continue the interaction to monitor the producers. The group shared all future correspondence with the JREF.
In an email to RMPRS member Matt Baxter, Maas gave directions for the re-film.
 

What the Supervising Producer is looking for:
1) Ask them if they can lift up the planchette at end to show there is no magnet...
2) Could the planchette move a little bit more dramatically?

Maas was asking the group to show that there was no trickery involved, but also asking them to reshoot the video ostensibly to trick the team, and the audience, into believing that this is, or could be, real paranormal activity. He was asking them to fix the footage, and this would bias the results and the research.

The group complied and reshot the scene, submitting it to Maas. However, it still wasn’t sensationalist enough. Maas replied:

Great! I'll show the supervising producer - really good, though I'm sure she's going to ask to see the planchette move a bit more towards the end...hate to ask you again when you went back and got all that footage, but let me know if there is a shot of the planchette really zooming around...(don't even need all those dudes there again, just a really dramatic planchette zoom)

Maas contacted his supervising producer and sure enough, she wanted a more dramatic movement of the planchette. The planchette darting across the board at the end of the scene is the paranormal money shot, and it was worth it to the producers to sweeten the deal with a bribe.

Hello! It's Jon Maas - so the Supervising Producer wants the clip, but a little bit different. If the footage is good enough for a case and it comes in 48 hours, we can pay a license fee of $1500...
Don't need necessarily everyone like the first video - ie you don't need to round up the posse but...the story of the place is good enough.
The supervising producer has requested the clip be: 
* Less staged (more like the first video)
* A bit more freakout like the first video
* Planchette moves a bit more dramatically
* Once again show the "no magnets" thing

If it gets approved by the network, $1500 license fee. Let me know either way!

$1500 is a cruelly tempting offer to starving skeptical paranormal investigators, but this would have been a deal with the devil. It would have been interesting to follow through with the project and then expose the producers, but then the group would have to become involved in the episode. They would lose the rights to the video, and lose their rights to the way in which they were portrayed. A one-off fee would damage their reputation for all time.

What would have happened if groups without ethics, or with a desire for fifteen-minutes of fame, had been contacted instead? Perhaps this accounts for the other episodes of Fact or Faked
Fact or Faked is the paranormal equivalent of wrestling shows. Their “evidence” isn’t proof of the paranormal, but proof that some shows are fixed. The fact is that Fact or Faked wanted to fake the video, to falsify the evidence and results. There is no proof that the producers intended to present the footage as factual, or as paranormal evidence, but they did warn that they would present the footage and portray the group in any way they liked. The producers never once asked if the footage was faked, but they did ask that the footage be altered; it is tacit that they knew the film was faked.
The requests to move the planchette more dramatically reveals the dishonesty of the producers, and the inauthenticity of the show.

In this instance, Fact or Faked would have been faked, in an inside job.

 

References:
1. SYFY – Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files - http://www.syfy.com/factorfaked/about.php
2. You Tube – Doctor Atlantis – Fact or Faked: Cemetery Phantom Analysis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl2WQyFHTHY&sns=tw
3. You Tube - Ouija Board: Planchette Moves on its own! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzJ_9ji73MU

Trackback(0)
Comments (15)Add Comment
...
written by William, October 07, 2010
The fact the the SciFi channel changed its name to "SyFy" would be a clue about the "science" part.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +15
SciFi channel? I don't watch EWTN either.
written by zhombu, October 07, 2010
Years ago, when I first got cable, I imagined that the SciFi channel would be one of my mainstays. It took maybe a few hours to realize that what I craved and what they served were two incompatible things. If I was to compile a list of cable TV disappointments, they'd be at the top. So I see nothing surprising in their funding of a show where the goal is to, at the very least, conclude some episodes with no less than proof neutral or proof positive. The "Syfy" channel and the producers of the junk it buys wouldn't know a valid extranormal event if it landed in front of their cameras, slithered down a gangplank, and nuked them in their 'nads. Church of the Uninformed.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +11
Dawkins/Plait?
written by TheIrreverend, October 07, 2010
What happened to the Dawkins/Plait article? I got it in my RSS feed and came here to comment on it and it has disappeared . . .
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +3
Science Fiction trying to play Science Fact
written by houdin654jeff, October 07, 2010
Granted, SciFi has now changed it's name to SyFy (Which I pronounce "see fee," because that's how it's spelled), but I think it's a bit lofty to expect a show on such a network to actually be factual. That said, this is a pretty low, scummy, TV producer thing to do, faking footage of something that, in all likelihood, is already fake. It's like putting an animatronic head and neck in Lock Ness and then shooting it with a cell phone camera from a long way away just to try proving a point.

This show didn't have much credibility to start with, given that they are trying to disprove video in an era when ANYONE can get decent video manipulation software, but this just drops their integrity right in the crapper. It would be nice if Jamie and Adam could approach stuff like this in someway on the actual Mythbusters, but it's just not something with reliable enough science behind it to test and, thus, a pseudoscience.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by MadScientist, October 07, 2010
I see. If it were a *real* spook moving the planchette, the poor spook wouldn't be good enough for the fake spook show. Personally I would have done this with magnets - you can lift the board off the table to show - uh - what exactly does lifting the board show? Oh, that's right- misdirection: I lifted the board and therefore there are no magnets in the legs of the planchette or strings attached to the planchette. Anyway, I would have used magnets because there's no chance of a bad camera angle or lighting to expose the string. It would also take almost no effort to come up with far more spectacular moves. I'd been thinking of building a motorized oija board for a bit over a year - I just need the time (and a good cabinet maker). Of course having a board which is as thick as a desktop is not as impressive as using an ordinary ouija board and a skilled operator with a magnet.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
@MadScientist Love the motorized Ouiji board idea
written by gfpatterson, October 07, 2010
How cool would it be if you could download messages via USB (or better, Bluetooth) Tap an unobtrusive area of the board & away it goes! Easily good for a couple of episodes. Shoot, I may have just cost myself a million dollars! smilies/smiley.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -1
...
written by Xiphos, October 07, 2010
for 1500 I would be happy to fake a Ouija board incident for this dopey sounding show. In fact I'll go one better then the Skeptics and use the "Hutchison effect" to move the pointer thingy. For that scam I should get 3 grand I think.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +1
...
written by MadScientist, October 07, 2010
@gfpatterson: It was (is) meant to run on a model aircraft Lithium Polymer battery. 2 compact motors (there are several types of motor which may be used), low-power 900MHz radio to send commands from a computer, and a slightly eccentric freewheeling bit which has the magnets which lock onto the planchette. The slight eccentricity and the freewheeling ability result in a little unpredictable rotation of the planchette. The biggest job would be writing software to move without seeming too robotic. Alternatively we can skip the software bit and have someone with what appears like a ouija board but which is actually the remote control - the human user can easily create the desired non-robotic movement. Yet another alternative for effects is to use a table with the mechanism built in and place an ordinary ouija board on the table (with a not-so-ordinary planchette of course).
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
Everything on TV is crap......, Lowly rated comment [Show]
...
written by JeffWagg, October 08, 2010
Great piece, Karen. I'd love to see you present this with video at TAM or some other event!
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +0
...
written by daSkeptic, October 08, 2010
Has anybody affiliated with the show ever actually stated that the content is not a work of fiction? Also, who exactly claimed that the show is the "Mythbusters of the Paranormal?"
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +6
...
written by Willy K, October 09, 2010
I am almost always disappointed by the SyFy channel science fiction programs with the following exceptions, Eureaka, Caprica, Battlestar Galactica (RIP) and FarScape (RIP).

Being a WWII history buff, I triedto watch a Ghost Hunters episode aboard the USS Lexington just to see if they at least told the story in an interesting manner. It was absolutely the most boring, amateurish thing I've ever seen! I could barely even make to the first commercial before I switched it off.

I was kind of hoping that "Fact or Faked" would be some kind of "apology" to the skeptical community. It was even more of an insult than Ghost Busters! Within the first minute they had demonstrated that they were just complete bullcrap. smilies/sad.gif
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +7
...
written by RobbieD, October 12, 2010
Great piece - just like the JREF of old. Now lets see this example of blatant media dishonesty and fraud broadcast far and wide. People should know how these program fakers treat them as fools and lie, lie, lie.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +2
Why aren't we like them?
written by WendyH, October 14, 2010
Great reveal! When I first watched that TV show, I was soooo impressed! I talked about it at our IIG meeting (grassroots skeptics in LA) and one of our Steering Committee members explained that he had interviewed for a job on that show on the crew. He said, if I remember right, that all the so-called investigators are actors, that they are not authentic skeptics, they don't know the first thing about grassroots skepticism --- and it led to a good discussion of what we do and why it is the way it is...sometimes fun, sometimes tedious -- not very glamorous.

What I am interested in, though, is that with the fakery and all, Sy Fy, or See Fee (very funny) did bother to put on a show about a little group of grassroots skeptics, however inaccurate it was. The skepticism community is a very small portion of the general population -- and I am perpetually amazed that Mythbusters stays on the air, and even more astonished that Phil Plait's Bad Universe is getting a chance to improve TV viewers' notion of what's real and not real. smilies/wink.gif

I am in love with my grassroots skepticism hobby -- it is a chance to do something to improve our society. We have fun and interact with others of like mind. I'm sorry that the producers of that show prostituted the concept. I'm jazzed that you, Karen, RMPRS, and DJ documented the attempted fakery and reported it here.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: -2
Wrong Approach
written by daSkeptic, October 15, 2010
The problem is not that these programs fake things. Much of what's on television depicts fictional or fictionalized events. The problem is that people think because something looks like a documentary it must be one. As a result, some believe what's shown and others cry fraud. Both are in error.
report abuse
vote down
vote up
Votes: +10

Write comment
This content has been locked. You can no longer post any comment.
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.

busy