Ghost Hunters International 2.10: "Port Arthur Penitentiary"

The previous episode seemed to generate a lot of controversy, particularly the “full spectrum” photo that seemed to have a figure standing by a fence. A lot of critics claimed that there was nothing in the photograph to see; it was all a matter of suggestion. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I went back to my HD recording a couple times, and I thought it was plain as day. I wouldn’t ever say that it was definitive, but I think there’s clearly a difference between the reference photo and the photo with the anomaly.

To be fair, some critics were measured in their opposition, noting that it’s never been made clear what the “full spectrum” camera produces, so it could all be a matter of unusual lens flare, shadow, and so forth. I noted that GHI members have a lot more experience with such photographs by now, but even they quickly qualify that they are not experts. They feel they can trust the output of the camera at this point, but they admit that it all comes down to their interpretation.

That’s what any intelligent paranormal investigator is going to say to qualify his or her conclusions. Let’s all be honest: even distinguished scientists with tons of papers and discoveries under their name must default to making a case for their conclusions based on the limitations of their knowledge, and even the theories with abundant data are open to debate and criticism. In fact, as a graduate student, I am often tasked with reviewing professionally and academically published papers and studies in my field of expertise, and nearly all of them have weaknesses in theory, design, or execution that can be exploited.

Truthfully, most paranormal investigators aren’t making the kind of case that one finds in academic research journals. Most of them know the difference. We all know it comes down to interpretation, and that is often based on a mixture of personal experience, “evidence”, and subjective notions of probability. As often as investigators might claim that something might be “indisputable”, it’s always open to debate.

Yet it astounds me when some critic takes it personally when someone dares to agree that there’s something unusual to discuss. It’s almost as if the possibility of an anomaly itself is an insult to worldwide intelligence. After posting the review for the previous episode, I received a demand that I explain my conclusion that there was something to see in the “full spectrum” photo. This individual wanted detailed screenshots and photographic analysis, from me, to prove what was, in the end, a simple opinion on someone else’s presented data. (Needless to say, he didn’t get what he wanted.)

I’ve said this many times before, but it seems more true than ever, with the glut of paranormal reality television on the airwaves. While there are plenty of people who will blindly accept anything presented on their TV screen, there is an overwhelming arrogance that comes from some of the more strident critics. Namely, those who assume an intellectual superiority from the belief that any and all reported paranormal activity is just evidence of delusional thinking.

Now I’ll be honest; I admit to my own arrogance. I am a reviewer and critic, after all. And I do think there are a lot of valid points to be made in terms of poor methodology, technique, and technical understanding within the paranormal investigative community. I’ve made those criticisms myself in abundance. No doubt, others would criticize my methods as well. I just see a difference between constructive criticism and the majority of what passes for dissent.

And in that context, I can’t wait to see what kind of comments come after this episode. This could very well be the best thing that GHI has managed to produce in their relatively short run. If anyone claims that there is nothing to see in this particular photograph, then I doubt there’s anything that would pass muster. (And to be clear, I’m just saying that there’s something in the photo worth discussing, not making a claim as to the nature of it.)

More on the photo in a moment. I think this investigation had a little something for everyone. Maybe it’s just the editors ensuring that the “evidence” has more impact than in other instances, but there was a lot of basic debunking taking place during this case. I was particularly impressed with Dustin’s observation that the “singing” was possibly an effect of the wind on the exposed pipes. There was really no way to know definitively under the circumstances, but it was a nice touch.

Similarly, they were able to debunk a number of banging sounds, and Paul in particular made a good call on the door that seemed to open by itself. That sort of thing does help to lend credence to their claims that they heard solid footsteps, even when it doesn’t show up on the audio. Is it possible that Robb and Ashley were fooled by natural settling and wood expansion/contraction? Maybe, but the fact that they considered those options and dismissed them satisfies me that they are not playing up the circumstance intentionally.

The other personal experiences were quite interesting. I’m really not sure what to think of Barry’s experiences on the dissection table. For a moment, I was worried that the man was having a heart attack. Frankly, I could say the same for Ashley. She looked genuinely rattled during her experience and pretty much the entire time afterward. This isn’t the first time, so if she’s as new to the field as she seems to be (taking into account the previous run of episodes), I’m impressed that she’s sticking with it.

This is another site with contextual EVPs, and at least one with a recognizable accent. I thought Ashley’s reaction to the “OK” response was quite sincere. When something gets under Ashley’s skin, it’s pretty damn obvious. I also liked the other EVPs that were captured. I know some will question the validity of any EVP when the original audio has been “cleaned up” to that degree, but there’s little doubt that there was something worth analyzing further in the recording.

If GHI was looking to promote anything as paranormal evidence (and that is the claim of some critics), then here is an example of something that a lot of groups would have been very excited about: the bed-curtain video. Dustin and Robb qualified that footage very nicely. It was notable for having happened only once, but there was nothing to suggest it had a paranormal origin. Yes, it’s clear that the client interpreted that as impressive “evidence”, but it was presented as a point of interest.

Of course, everyone is really going to be debating the “full spectrum” photo. I’ll repeat what I said before: I can clearly see what they are talking about in the photo, and I understand exactly why they feel it is potentially paranormal in origin. I thought they did a pretty good job of trying to debunk the photo by showing what a person walking in that space would look like on the 30-second exposure setting.

I suppose it’s possible that someone could technically stand in that position for 30 seconds to produce that image, but given that Barry and Joe were looking right in that direction at the time, it would have been obvious that someone was standing there. And there’s always the possibility of pattern-recognition. And doubtless, some will claim that the photo is simply a fake. As for my own opinion, I agree with the majority of the stated GHI interpretation: there’s something in the photo, it looks like a figure, and taken as presented, it defies simple explanation.


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