Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for February, 2009

Eerie footage of “ghost” captured by schoolboy?

The video above has been seen by hundreds of thousands of Netizens in the past few days, despite not being that scary nor interesting, and coming straight from The Sun, not your most credible news source.

Captured by 12-year-old Reece Pitman, the British tabloid informs us that:

“It came days after his nine-year-old sister complained that someone was mysteriously finishing her jigsaws at night. The lad showed the amazing footage — which must be seen to be believed — to mum Tonia, 38. She said: “Reece looked scared witless. In the clip a white shadow appears from my bedroom followed by the dark image of a man. It crosses the landing and disappears when it reaches the banisters.” Tonia, of Solihull, Birmingham, said she consulted a psychic who told her the ghost could be friendly. Sales assistant Tonia said: “I’ve had a tough time recently as my husband left me. I didn’t believe in ghosts — but I’m thinking of the spectre as my guardian angel.” Julian Banks of the British Paranormal Society said the film was “potentially the best image of a ghost in years”.
[The Sun: Ghostbanisters]

Actually, the video shows some artifacts that strongly hint it was crudely hoaxed.

The unfocused aspect of the ghost can be accomplished by placing anything immediately in front of he camera. And, the telltale sign, are a series of light reflections that seem to go along the apparition.

In the video below, we reproduced the ghost video by trying two different methods: first using a transparent sheet of plastic with a black figure glued to it; then simply hanging a black lace string in front of the camera:

Our reproduction is clearly far from being perfect, but it hopefully demonstrates the effects and ideas involved, especially the light reflections that show up when you place a transparent sheet in front of a camera without much care. The drawing fixed to the sheet should have been slimmer, perhaps even translucid, but I didn’t bother to try that.

A British chap seems to have achieved better results also with a transparent sheet. Pay attention to his electronically modified kid-voice.

Reproducing the original video (assuming you consider these as reproductions) doesn’t prove it was a hoax. It is, however, hopefully a healthy and informative exercise and context to evaluate the evidence.

After all, why should a real ghost show the same reflections that a transparent sheet of plastic would show up? Believe it… or not.

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UPDATE: Yeah, yeah, my reproduction is VERY far from being perfect. And Brian Parsons in the comments below suggested why the reflection of the lights was right, but the ghost not quite so:

“The trick is to use a clear reflective surface near the camera with enough space between it and the lens to have something reflect back between the plastic and the lens. It’s an easy trick and is responsible for numerous fake videos dating back several years (does anyone remember the Oklahoma junk yard video?).”

In fact, upon reviewing the video, I suspect the ghost may be indeed nothing more than a reflection in the clear reflective surface that was put near the camera… of the cell phone itself. That is, not solid piece of paper, no semi-transparent image fixed to the sheet of clear plastic or glass.

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Was the ghost just the cell phone? Believe it.. or not.

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A Sign in the Tragedy?

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The state of Santa Catarina, Brazil, was victim of heavy rain near the end of 2008, which caused floods and landslides. More than 70.000 people lost their houses and the death toll was above 128 victims, most involved in landslides.

And a landslide is what affected the hill on Antonio Zendron Street. But a very peculiar landslide: after the trees went down, some remained forming a cross that could be seen hundreds of meters away.

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The locals without surprise understood that as a divine sign. “It’s the End of the Times, a Sign from God”, many proclaimed. Others quickly associated the glyph with aliens, flying saucers, crop circles and such.

Though no real investigation has been made on site – there were other priorities, clearly – I think it’s reasonable to assume the cross was just a casual coincidence. Here’s what it looks like today, months after the landslide:

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It’s easier to see the cross was not so well-defined in the first place, and how it was related to the soil and terrain. A very curious case, nevertheless.

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deslizamentoquiriri No matter how we may point at the hundreds and hundreds of landslides during the tragedy that didn’t look like anything like a cross, and how in this context it’s not necessarily a supernatural thing to find one that does look like one.

I don’t condemn anyone for looking at the cross at distance and being puzzled. It’s a giant cross in a hill, after all. A curious case indeed.

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UFO Beams around the World? Solved

In the video above, captured December 19, 2007, in Rosario, Argentina, you can see a flying luminous object that seems to zap some vertical beams to the ground (at 0:26, for instance). ufo_beam_s

“I filmed it with a friend’s cell phone in Rosario, after exiting Alto Rosario shopping mall. … Upon watching the video closely I realized that the strange light, which many people saw and thought was a satellite, fired beams to the ground”, the witness told a local investigator, who quickly pronounced that “we know about these UFOs that fire beams to the ground. It happened in Germany and the UK. Thus, when he sent me the video, I couldn’t believe it; it’s something different from what we are used to see. Those are laser-like beams. The boy recorded five beams”, she stated to a local radio show. [source]

She nearly got it, at least when comparing the beams to lasers. Keep reading for the solution to this and many other cases around the world.

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Changing a “UFO” lightbulb

OVNInaUFSC

“Take a look at this photo that I got from Juarez from FESPORTE, of the Santa catarina Federal University, they say it’s a UFO”.

That was the message forwarded by Eustáquio Patounas. The trivial solution and some commentary after the jump.

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Sand Garden: Zen, Sisyphus and the Dalai Lama

The Sisyphus is a series of art installations by Bruce Shapiro where a steel sphere moves as if by magic over sand creating stunningly beautiful patterns that are then quickly erased by the sphere again. From the artist:

“Watching the sand paths being slowly and methodically created, only to be erased and redone, I was reminded of the myth of Sisyphus, a man condemned to forever roll a boulder up a hill only to find the next day that it had rolled back to the start.”

The magic is actually accomplished by controlling the steel sphere with a magnet in motion under the table, a deceptively simple design. Besides Greek mythology, the amazing work may remind us of a zen sand garden or the Tibetan Sand Mandalas.

Make up your religious and philosophical musings at will, the art is definitely inspiring and hypnotizing as we can watch the sphere slowly create – and destroy – the patterns. Sisyphus II can be seen in the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Learning Technology Center and the Sisyphus III was installed at Technorama, The Swiss Science Center, near Zurich.

Keep reading for more videos, images and links of the Sisyphus series and other works by Shapiro.

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