Paranormal Investigator Advice from Amy Bruni

I just read this article at the Examiner.com and while I understand the interest in spooky ghost stories I am completely dumbfounded by how seriously paranormal “reality” shows are taken by viewers, and how successful they have been.

In our sufficiently advanced age we are entertained by, and make famous, plumbers who hunt ghosts in their spare time. Well, it’s full-time now I guess, they’re veritable rocks stars of paranormal investigation. But I guess I shouldn’t chuckle too much, our society finds celebrities in all kinds of useless TV and film. There’s no pride, no integrity, just a lot of shit.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the plumbing trade, it’s a perfectly worthwhile profession. Certainly more worthwhile than ghost hunting, and in general it pays better, but it is funny to note that in some cases the popularized, televised investigation of nothing is actually a more lucrative endeavor.

How does one find personal fulfillment in achieving fame as a ghost hunter?
There is the money. But for integrity’s sake there are two possibilities, the famed ghost hunter is either incredibly delusional or incredibly ambitious with no ounce of shame. I’d almost prefer to think that these famous paranormal investigators are intentionally taking advantage of the gullible, riding high on a wave of stupendously ignorant TV watchers. At least then we could call them charlatans or con-artists.

But if, like most of their viewers, they actually believe that ghosts are real and huntable then they’re just as ignorant of the facts. Still, credit where credit is due for their audacity at least, they actually had the balls to pursue a career in it and record their so-called investigations on video then pitch their idea to some network.

Our species has been conjuring up ghosts and the possibility of an afterlife, or some otherwise unknown and mysterious great “beyond,” for eons. Luckily, somewhere along the way some of us figured all this was probably bullshit and some smarty pants homo sapiens said, “this doesn’t make sense…” and scientific investigation was born.

After centuries examining claims and finding no evidence to support the existence of ghosts or any other paranormal or “unexplained” thing — including but not limited to gods, spirits, demons, witchcraft, alchemy, aliens, alien abductions, lake monsters, bigfoot, etc. — and assuming that most humans generally consider this stuff relative bunk and permissible merely for entertainment sake, scientists decided to stop looking too seriously at such things and instead began to concentrate on more fruitful endeavors like stuff we could see and examine. This ultimately lead to a greater understanding of our world and our species, as well as great advances in technology, and Advil.

That said, never a plumber, what advice does Ghost Hunter Amy Bruni share with budding rookie paranormal investigators? One key piece of wisdom she shares is, “expect many hours of investigation with little result.”

Here ends my lesson.

Singing Jibberish GOP Candidate for US Senate

Kathleen Tonn Singing in Tongues in steam roomThis has got me steamed, pun intended. I actually toyed with the idea of moving to Alaska. Love the place, can’t wait to visit, but I’m not man enough to handle the weather there full-time, it takes a special breed of human being to brave Alaska. What else scares me is the woo springing from a particular steam room up there!

What is “Speaking in Tongues?” According to Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM), “Speaking in Tongues is the speaking of a language one does not know by the Power of God.”

But researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, god I love Pennsylvania, monitored the brains of test subjects while they “spoke in tongues” and found that their frontal lobes, and I’ll quote the NYTimes here, “…the thinking, willful part of the brain through which people control what they do — were relatively quiet, as were the language centers.”

Clearly this indicates that the people weren’t thinking, and no language was actually being used. A study published in “Tongues of Men and Angels: The Religious Language of Pentecostalism – A Controversial and Sympathetic Anaylsis of Speaking in Tongues” by William J. Samarin, preceeds the neurological study by 33 years and they agree: no language is present. So clearly this can’t be really speaking in tongues. It’s more like just plain jibberish, but it makes these people feel good so what the heck.

“What the heck” is what the hell Kathleen Tonn, Alaska GOP candidate for Senate, is doing sining in tongues in a steam room in Alaska! This is pretty disturbing. People like this need to be ignored, because sometimes they actually go away. Unfortunately the internet and blogging spreads this bullshit around ad nauseam. And I will too, because I want you to see this display of human kookiness for yourself. It really is quite comical, but the sad part is that it is not a joke.

Fucked up.

Tiger Fish Swallows Swallow

Tiger fishOkay, dopey title, but screw it, THAT is a scary looking fish! You want to talk Strange Encounters? Talk to the birds who narrowly escaped death as one of their comrades was snagged in mid flight by a bird hunting tiger fish. It’s not the first time a finned creature has been documented leaping out of water, for fun or to snag lunch. Whales frequently breach the surface for some form of their own entertainment, dolphins do too, and of course flying fish fly, to some extent. Great white sharks will break the surface too, when snagging a sea lion or a seal.

This is the first time a tiger fish has been documented mowing down on a swallow, but certainly not the first time it has happened. We have to give fish more cred. Hell, I hear goldfish breaching the surface in my fish tank all the time. “Bloop!” Not sure if they’d be able to take down a house fly or anything though. Gotta be quick for that. Check out the swallow catching tiger fish below…

And while you’re at it, watch this one for a laugh. Fish jumps in the boat, man jumps out.

NVidia Tegra K1 Crop Circle Project 192

NVidia K1 Crop Circle publicity stunt - Project 192“I’m a skeptic but, this could be aliens I don’t know. I’m always willing to believe something so…” rambled a gawker standing along side a field in Salinas, California, to check out the mysterious crop circle that was first discovered Monday, December 30.

The crop circle in question was eventually revealed to be a bit of publicity staged by NVidia to promote their K1 Processor, an “impossibly advanced” mobile processor which will deliver super-computer graphics performance to the mobile market. They explain the crop circle on their blog which includes a video. Check it out below…

The crop circle was realized rather quickly by seasoned crop circle artists, with a lead time of only about two weeks. The intricate crop circle contains braile which translates to 192, the number of graphics cores present in the chip which will deliver amazing graphics quality. A spokesman states that the NVidia K1 Processor will be found in mobile phones, tablets, cars, all-in-one desktop computers running Android, and as claimed will be the fastest chip in the universe.

That’s an extraordinary claim. Don’t they need extraordinary evidence to back it up? :)

Happy Monsters and Mysteries New Year

Image depicting attack on cabin by alien creatures.What do I find myself watching on the first day of the new year? “Monsters and Mysteries in America” on Destination America. The Rose Bowl game doesn’t start until 5 so I have some time to kill.

This episode, Appalachia, rehashes Mothman and the Hopkinsville Goblins Case, and they toss in Sheepsquatch for good measure. I like a good spooky story from time to time but this doesn’t work. As usual there is no logic or reality check, they merely present “Eyewitness” testimony and hearsay about encounters, with bad CG monsters and crappy special effects.

But what should we really expect?

The stories are great, but for me they lose their fun and effectiveness when presented as reality. Can we wrap these tales up in another way and actually make them entertaining, without ridiculous re-enactments and witness interviews? Why try to pass them off as real? Who cares? They are fun, spooky stories and that’s all that matters. Just tell them.

Well, most of them are fun and spooky. Sheepsquatch is just stupid, almost as stupid as Batsquatch. You’re probably familiar with that old saying “you can’t make this stuff up.” Well, you can make this stuff up. Let’s give it a try. How about, let’s see… Goatsquatch, Dogsquatch, Porksquatch, PhillyCheesesteakSquatch. See?

Mothman is fun. The creature in the Jeepers Creepers films brings the notion of a creepy, winged-man monster to life, and we’re entertained. Alien invasion stories are always fun, but Sheepsquatch? Nah. I’ll pass on that one.

The Unexplained Files – Leave the Bunk Alone

Carl Kolchak - The Night StalkerAs I said in my last post, we bounced back and forth between The Unexplained files and slightly better TV, Restaurant Impossible, and spent most of the time on the latter. Nothing new on The Unexplained Files, same bunk different day.

Why bother complaining? There is a reason I run this site. A reason I tend to read books and watch TV and movies about monsters, UFOs and strange mysteries in general: it’s fun sometimes. I’m not above admitting an attraction to this stuff. It’s been an interest of mine for a long, long time, and I like it. Tales of the unexplained are entertaining, and sometimes I watch bunk TV even if it’s just to toss wisecrack commentary at the screen during shows like The Unexplained Files.

Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind I wish some of it were true, but all of these things emerge from human imagination and our evolutionary heritage. The thrill we get from tales of the unknown is psychological. There is a reason the phrase “spine tingling” exists; humans love adventure and mystery. Stories and spooky legends turn on our imagination and excite us.

What makes it all a farce is the people coming forward with their “evidence” like “doctor” Phyllis Canion. She has a stuffed mangy dog she’s touting as an unknown predator, and the frozen corpse of a dead something we’re never given a clear shot of. Her comment? “I don’t know what it is, do you?”

Maybe we’d be able to figure it out if the damn cameraman were allowed to get a good shot, but no, we’re not allowed to really look at the “evidence” for ourselves, but should we? Should we bother to investigate? Should we play Kolchak or Fox Mulder? Why? Let’s just enjoy the entertainment and leave it alone.

Shows like this actually detract from the wonder of the entertaining and enduring “mysteries” like Bigfoot, UFOs, ghosts and other wonderful strangeness. It all started with stories and legends.

None of this stuff is true, but it’s fun. Tell the stories, enjoy the mysteries and the “what if” factor, enjoy the thrills and the scares. But don’t try to explain it, don’t ruin the beauty of legend and lore as it exists in our culture.

If we look at it for what it is, and explore the mysteries as a way to entertain ourselves, that’s fine. But don’t try to make it real.

The Unexplained FIles on Science Channel

The Unexplained Files premiers on Sci tonight and I plan to watch, but I will also find something else worthwhile and keep my finger on the [return] button to flick back to “good” TV if it gets too stupid.

I expect a flimsy rehash of the standard “unexplained” fare and suspect it will include scant presentation of any real facts with plenty of attention drawn to complete speculation and nonsense. It is, after all, what the general population (who actually watch this stuff) are looking for.

We don’t want the truth, we want entertainment! I can understand that, I like it too, that’s why I run this damn website, but at some point you would think the producers or broadcasters would at least try to edumacate the general paranormal public about what real science understands regarding these “mysteries.”

Easier said than done I guess. First, people who want to believe nonsense will ignore any legitimate explanation anyway, happens all the time. Second, people who want to believe nonsense will ignore any legitimate explanation anyway, happens all the time.

Turd, the networks won’t get any decent ratings so they have to deliver what the audience wants.

Image of Frederick Valentich and news article about his disappearanceAll kidding aside, the premier episode will feature two stories. The first, “Valentich,” is a rehashing of the disappearance of pilot Frederick Valentich, who vanished without a trace under mysterious circumstances over Bass Strait in Australia.

The mysterious transmission recorded between Valentich and the Melbourne Flight Service Unit reveals some strangeness which tweaks the ears of any UFO buff. Valentich described a strange, shiny metal object “orbiting” overhead. On the recording he stated “it is hovering and it’s not an aircraft.”

This last transmission was followed by strange metallic sounds before contact with his plane was lost. Official investigation has failed to explain the sounds (but they could be the result of a crashing plane), and though no wreckage was discovered it may be assumed that his plane crashed in the sea and was swept away before finally sinking.

According to his father Valentich had an interest in UFOs. He also may have been a bit paranoid, and perhaps was fantasy prone. Not the best combo for a pilot. Of course, that is complete speculation on my part.

Dead, stuffed mangy Texas Blue Lacy dogNext in the premier is “Texas Blue Dogs.” Not sure how the powers-that-be at Sci determined this as part of the lead episode but it sounds down right scary as hell to me. I’ve heard of Texas Hot Weiners but Texas Blue Dogs?

Oh I won’t speculate, but for all we know it’s some crazy hybrid alien-Chupacabra creature running around, I mean, we can’t disprove that right? And there’s a “doctor” on the episode with a full size mounted one of these things. It has crazy blue glass eyes, so it must be for real!

Dr. Phyllis Canion is a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine. In short, a quack. She’s probably on TV to promote her name (and thereby her website, when anyone does a google search, as we do these days), and she may actually convert some visits to sales if enough nonsense-believing dopes pop by. It could happen, that’s why I run this damn website. But at least I’m not a quack.

She also touts her professionally stuffed and sinisterly posed, dead, malnourished or mangy Blue Lacy dog as an example of mysterious, unknown creatures who may be mutilating her chickens and terrorizing other ranchers in Texas.

I mean, let’s not look too closely at these things, we don’t really want to know what the truth is, we just want to be reminded that maybe, just maybe… things are not as they seem. That’s entertainment.

Mysterious Sounds: The Hum

The mystery of The Hum. The first reports of mysterious, monotonous droning noises began in the 1940s and 50s, but the most well known case was the Bristol Hum, heard by about 800 people in Bristol, England in 1979. Scotland followed suit with reports of a strange hum in the 1980s, then Taos, New Mexico put the U.S. on the Hum map.

Apparently as much as 2% of people in “Hum prone” areas, known as “sufferers,” are plagued by The Hum. They claim to be troubled by a persistent humming noise that has been described by some sufferers as a truck driving up hill in low gear, never reaching the top. A low frequency resonance.

But what could The Hum be?

A 2003 study by consultant Geoff Leventhall, an expert in acoustics and president of The Institute of Acoustics, states:

The Hum is the name given to a low frequency noise which is causing persistent complaints, but often cannot be traced to a single, or any, source. If a source is located, the problem moves into the category of engineering noise control and is no longer “the Hum”, although there may be a long period between first complaint and final solution.

Is the Hum the result of a social effect or suggestion? Leventhall’s study explains,

The Hum is widespread, affecting scattered individuals, but periodically a Hum focus arises where there are multiple complaints within a town or area. There has been the Bristol Hum (England), Largs Hum (Scotland), Copenhagen Hum (Denmark), Vancouver Hum (Canada), Taos Hum (New Mexico USA), Kokomo Hum (Indiana USA) etc. A feature of these Hums is that they have been publicised in local and national press, so gathering a momentum which otherwise might not have occurred. The concepts of memetics are applicable here.

Memes, a term coined by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene, are ideas, behaviors or styles that spread through a culture person to person. Wikipedia explains memes well, “A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena.”

If an individual’s experience is not corroborated by others in the immediate area at the time, or detected with equipment and subsequently it may be subjective, specific to the individual, and could possibly be previously undetected effects of tinnitus, or otoacoustic emissions, noticed after the individual was made aware of the phenomenon through exposure to a meme, through the media or hearsay.

Possible explanations for The Hum include tinnitus, spontaneous otoacoustic emissions (SOE, sounds generated by the ears themselves), and infrasound created by nearby machinery, industrial processes, highway traffic, gas lines, or natural sources, including colliding ocean waves.

In the case of tinnitus and SOE, the specific sound would not be detectable by equipment or anyone else, only known to the subject.

According to an article on NBC News, “Generally, the Hum is only heard indoors, and it’s louder at night than during the day.” The article goes on to state, “It’s also more common in rural or suburban environments; reports of a hum are rare in urban areas.”

This would hold true for internal or external causes of The Hum, since the humming is faint enough to be masked by some ambient noise near the subject.

This author has actually experienced The Hum, but it seems to follow me around, and is intermittent, so it may be the effect of low frequency tinnitus brought on by either muscle tension in the neck or sinus pressure associated with seasonal allergies.

Other Mysterious Cases of The Hum
Whatever the cause it is a strange effect, especially at night, when things are quite. And especially in colder months when we close our windows. The Hum takes on an ominous quality, and it’s easy to imagine some clandestine scenario like massive machinery tunneling its way through the earth, digging subterranean research facilities, secret infrasound guidance systems for submarines, or maybe something stranger.

The McCalla Hum, for example. In 2011, residents of McCalla, Alabama, woke to a strange noise described by some as distant sirens, helicopters or locusts. They could not pinpoint a source, for when they walked in a direction which seemed to be its origin, the sound would then appear to come from behind them.

Strange indeed, but Samford University biology professor, Lawrence J. Davenport, Ph.D., insists that what the residents of McCalla heard were 13 year cicadas.

What other natural phenomena might explain The Hum?

Resources:
A Review of Published Research on Low Frequency Noise and its Effects
The Hum – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sourcing the Taos Hum
NBC News
Infrasound Laboratory

Mountain Monsters on Destination America

I don’t always get the greatest cell phone reception up here in the wilderness of northwestern Pennsylvania. The spooky mountains that surround my home may be high, but they are very remote too. Hard put tuning in any decent FM rock stations, the nearest station I get plays country music.

Three cheers for cable TV and broadband internet! I can stream music from thousands of stations and choose from hundreds of channels on TV. Mostly crap these days with all the stupid reality shows, but there is some good stuff.

I remember the trip home from Walmart with my new TV just the other night. As I drove along the dark roads of this far-removed area I thought how fitting it would be for a Devil Dog or Dogman to leap out at me from the woods beside the road. Active imagination.

mountain_monsters_promoAfter returning home, unpacking and hooking up my new TV, I saw a preview for a new show. Another show about monsters in the woods has found it’s way to televisions across America: Mountain Monsters. I thought, how perfect a show for someone in so remote and woodsy a location. Bring it on!

Ghost and monster shows are a dime a dozen these days. After a lull in this sort of thing following In Search Of… and Arthur C. Clark’s Mysterious World back in the 70s and early 80s — except for one-off episodes on various TV shows throughout the 80s — an interest in the paranormal and mystery monsters has seen a huge resurgence since the mid 90s spurred on by growth of the World Wide Web and perpetuated by an eager audience.

The popularity of ghosts, monsters and mysteries across the web has translated to television. Success of shows like The X-Files has proven that there is a big market for the paranormal, monsters and mystery.

Investigation-style shows abound. Most of them are pretty lame, much the same half-baked treatment of paranormal and ghostly topics which began with Ghost Hunters. Since first airing on October 6 2004, Ghost Hunters has spawned Ghost Hunters International, and through the ensuing years we’ve seen more shows pop up, some short-lived, some achieving some success. You can find paranormal and cryptozoological themes on Animal Planet, A&E, SyFy, Destination America, the History Channel and more.

Shows include Destination Truth (SyFy), Paranormal State (A&E), Paranormal Cops (A&E), Ghost Adventures (Travel Ch.), Most Terrifying Places in America (Travel Ch.), MonsterQuest (History Ch.), Finding Bigfoot (Animal Planet). Matt, Bobo, Cliff and Ranae have had great success with Finding Bigfoot, now starting their fourth season.

At first glance Mountain Monsters may seem to be just another lame knock off with some different cryptids, and hokey personalities, but some viewers have responded favorably. A few posts I’ve read online indicate that in some ways Mountain Monsters is actually more entertaining and better produced than Finding Bigfoot.

My first impression, after seeing that preview, was “Oh boy, here we go again…” But I admit, I have yet to watch my first episode, so I’ll head over to Amazon to check out a few before I cast my vote, and before the next one airs on TV this Saturday. I may chime in again on this show at a later date when I have more information.

Anyone who has seen the show and has some comments about it please post them here. Thanks!

For those of you who do not get Destination America, but happen have plenty of internet bandwidth, you can watch Mountain Monsters on Amazon Instant Video.

Did an Object Hit the Texas Fertilizer Plant?

The video seen below shows raw footage of the Waco Texas fertilizer plant fire and explosion. There has been speculation, by some imaginative fantasy-prone individuals, that the explosion was caused by the impact of an object they claim to see entering the scene from the left, and only visible in one frame of the video.

There doesn’t appear to be an object in this video. A flash of flame or light can be seen on the left just before the blast, but nothing we can consider a physical object or projectile.

The main problem with this idea is that it ignores the fact that the fire was already burning. It started in a building called the “Dry Barn”, which is used to store ammonium nitrate (see TheVerge.com). Considering the volatile nature of this chemical in a fire situation, the likelihood of this and a possible combination of other chemicals igniting and causing the explosion is far greater than the possibility of an explosive projectile.

It makes no sense to overlook the most likely causes in favor of conspiratorial suspicion. Ockham’s Razor is a great logical tool, and should be employed by everyone, especially conspiracy theorists.

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