Monday, October 26, 2009

Debunking Ghost Adventures

There is a show on Travel Channel that I came across recently called Ghost Adventures. It is hosted by three guys Zak Bagans, Nick Groff and Aaron Goodwin. They travel to some of the places in America and sometimes Europe and Britain to document paranormal phenomena. Most often they are lucky and bring back a lot of EVPs or Electronic Voice Phenomena or sometimes even light anomalies and orbs. On some occasions the guys have also captured dark shadows and even moving objects. While most of what they have documented so far seems genuine, I am yet trying to debunk some of them and explain ‘scientifically’ and ‘logically’ what they could actually be. But boy, the shows do leave you kind of creeped out!




Let me begin with the EVPs which the guys record in each and every episode. The question is ARE THEY REALLY GHOST VOICES? To explain that we have to consider the two types of haunting: residual and intelligent. In a residual haunting, events from the past keep playing over and over again like a record. These are most likely to happen in places rich in history like battlegrounds, a historical ruin, the execution chamber or even in a house where some emotionally charged incident had happened. Scientists explain this as the discharge of personal energy which gets imprinted onto the surrounding environment. In fact the whole ‘theory’ of so called ghosts and spirits are based on the premise of energy- which can neither be created nor destroyed. Our bodies are storehouses of energy. Innumerable electro-chemical processes take place within our organ systems and in each of the processes large quantities of energy are released. We use some of the energy for our vital processes and daily activities and the rest of it may be dissipated into the surrounding environment. So when a person dies, when all his vital processes cease, what happens to the energy which was inside him. It would no longer be required so does it die along with the person? NO. The energy is released into the environment. We do not know yet what form of energy this is. But we can know for sure that it is released into the atmosphere but certainly not destroyed. (Law of Conservation of Energy) Coming back to residual haunting, these voices or visions which repeat themselves over and over again are nothing but the dissipated energy left over when the people died. In this case, the energy morphs itself into sound energy or light energy which we then hear as voices and see as visions. The loud ‘thuds’ and ‘dragging noises’ which Zak and his team hears are thus nothing but residual energies left over from a disturbed past. It is no surprise that most of these ‘dragging noises’ are actually noises from ‘dragging a dead body’ across the wooden floor or something like that. The ‘thuds’ are most often people falling down the stairs and injuring themselves which led to their death. The ‘disembodied wail’ and ‘woman crying’ are similarly remnants of a disturbed event which had greatly altered the courses of the lives of the people who made those sounds in the past.



A second kind of EVPs we get to hear are the intelligent voices which ‘answer’ questions posed by the guys or even give them valuable advice like: ‘DIE’, ‘COME HERE’ and ‘LAY DOWN’! How would you explain these voices? The intelligent EVPs are mostly results of extreme taunting techniques that Zak and his friends use to coax a reaction from the ‘other world’. There have been times when Zak had asked: “Do you live here? Knock once to say yes…”, and there was a knock. What if…what if…Zak himself made that noise?! If they have to ‘fake’ all of it, they have a pretty good excuse: In the opening of the show, Zak tells his viewers that he never believed in ghosts until he came face to face with one. So he set out on a journey trying to capture what he ‘once saw onto video’. He then says:



“With no big camera crew following us around, I am joined only by my fellow investigator Nick Groff and our equipment tech Aaron Goodwin…”



The point that there really are ‘no big camera crews’ following them makes it so much easier for them to ‘fake’ the whole show. Shaky images from hand held camcorders, pitch darkness and the green glow of infra-red vision- elements that give a ‘documentary’ feel to the show, elements that attempt to make it realistic can also be potent weapons in ‘staging’ the whole affair! While Zak points his camcorder towards him and asks, “Make some noise to tell us that you are here…”, he can intentionally knock on the wall with his free hand and then say “WHAT THE F*** WAS THAT! NICK DID YOU HEAR THAT?!”



I would like to draw attention to two instances here. Both happened in the La Purisima Mission, California. In the early nineteenth century, a great revolt took place between the inhabiting tribe the Chumash Indians and the Spanish soldiers before the independence of Mexico. Many Spanish soldiers were killed here by the Chumash Indians. At that time Father Payeras was in charge of the mission. He died in 1823 and his body is buried in the mission itself. It is believed that his spirit still roams about in the mission and would often mess up the bedsheets in his room that is still preserved. But before even the guys could fix up their ‘static night vision camera’ in Father Payeras’ bedroom, they found the sheets all crumpled and messed up! It is strange that the guys didn’t really think of setting up their cam earlier so they could capture whatever messed up the bed on camera. Oh man, what a fantastic piece of evidence would that have been! The second incident happens when they visit an old weaving room with looms where Chumash Indians would weave while some would play flutes. To entice the spirits, Zak plays traditional Chumash Indian music on a CD. They set up a digital sound recorder and a static camera to capture any paranormal activity. What they captured would definitely make the hair on the back of your neck stand! They captured the sound of typical Chumash Indian flute music! The guys were ecstatic! They had reason to be except I just figured that the flute music they captured sounded very similar to the one they had just played a while back to lure any disembodied being into the weaving room. Could it be that by mistake Zak had switched the digital recorder on while still playing the CD?



I am being a hardcore skeptic here which is quite unnatural for me. When they analyzed the music it was interlaced with static sounds which weren’t there when they had played the CD. And all the while they were talking while the music was being played. So had Zak even intentionally recorded the flute music from the CD, it would definitely be interlaced with their own voices. But then again, modern editing softwares and digital special effects have revolutionized post production techniques. But how would you account for the ‘flying brick’ in the Goldfield Hotel in Nevada? No way could it have been intentionally thrown by someone for there was no one there. And the trajectory of the brick made it clear that it would be impossible for us humans to throw something that would not have an elliptical trajectory. The path followed by the brick in the Goldfield was a STRAIGHT LINE! And it would also be impossible to attach very thin strings to it and pull it from the other end as the string would snap owing to the weight of the brick.



So have I been successful in debunking Ghost Adventures? No. Not hundred percent. For every debunked theory, there arises as new theory to make it seem more credible. To Ghost Adventures’ defense, what they do is one hundred percent credible. There lies a world very close to ours, a world that is full of the unknown, that is invisible except for certain instance when the curvature in the space-time fabric allows light to pass through from that world to ours- what we in common lingo call ‘portals’. These are not only portals to the spirit world but are also gateways to other dimensions of space of time and of spacetime. I would say scientists should be thankful to ‘ghosts’ because for them, we now know that there is a dimension beyond the visibly perceived three dimensions of space and one dimension of time. I can foresee a future where gazillion dollars would be spent on trying to investigate unknown dimensions and trying to construct a travel path to and from them. Till then, we would prefer ghosts and spirits to keep haunting us and preserve the ‘mystery’ of the other world. We love getting scared don’t we?

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