Ghost Hunters International 2.13: "The Legend of Rose Hall"

Almost as soon as it begins, another short but sweet run of “Ghost Hunters International” comes to an end. There’s a part of me that would rather see more GHI and less TAPS at this point, but I can appreciate the rationale behind the scheduling. I don’t know if the GHI team could handle a longer production schedule, considering how rough it is already!

This has been a really good run for the show and the team, with some great insight into their techniques and comfort as a unit. There has been a core set of investigators at the heart of the team for a while now, operating from a clear and well-communicated investigative philosophy, and I think that has given the team a bit more credibility. Sure, there are those who outright refuse to give any televised team a shred of credit, and those who deify other groups at the expense of others, but objectively, they are a lot more consistent.

Watching the episode, I noted the abundance of photographic “evidence”, and wanted to share some thoughts on the subject. I’ve long been of the opinion (and I’ve said this before) that photographic “evidence”, taken on its own, is not sufficient proof of paranormal activity. While this is technically true for any data source, it is especially true for photographs for a number of reasons.

The problem is that digital technology is such that it is all too easy to fabricate a photograph or make subtle alterations to “enhance” what may or may not be there. Moreover, the nature of photographic (and even video) technology is such that there are several different ways that anomalies can be generated without realizing it.

For this reason, in my group, we are very careful when discussing any photographs. We seldom go further than mentioning or pointing out potential anomalies. Even so, in the past, we have noticed how zealous skeptics have claimed that just posting a photo, in the interest of discussion, is tantamount to claiming evidence of the paranormal, regardless of our direct protests to the contrary!

In another situation, we posted an odd photograph that had an unusual shadow; we weren’t sure what it was, so it was posted in the interests of peer review. Months later, claims of fraud started pouring in, much to our surprise and consternation. When we confronted our critics, they sent the exact picture that was at the center of the accusation. We were shocked to discover that someone had taken the original photo, altered it to make the shadow look darker and more like a human figure, and then claimed that it was something we produced! It took quite some time to set the record straight, and to this day, we still don’t know who altered the photo or why they would bother. Worse, there are those who still find the altered photo and jump to conclusions.

As one can imagine, we are now wary of posting photographs from investigations as a result, even when they are purely for reference. Also, I try to be very careful when parsing my words regarding photographic “evidence”. While some may not understand or appreciate the distinction, there is a world of difference between saying a photograph is interesting and worth further analysis and claiming that it is proof of the paranormal.

But this reveals something about the paranormal investigative community that I deeply dislike. Too many investigators take questions about their potential evidence as a personal affront, and they respond in kind. And the worst accusations come from those with “evidence” that doesn’t pass muster as genuine. When many outspoken skeptics have no problem with the notion of accusing paranormal investigators of outrageously filthy and disgusting things, often without basis in fact, I don’t understand why members of the community are just as willing, if not more so. I have to give GHI credit for being open to constructive criticism.

As I said, this pertains to this episode, because so much of the “evidence” was photographic in nature. It will be interesting to see the reaction. For my part, I don’t believe there is any fabrication involved, for reasons I’ve stated many times. Nor do I see this as a matter of willful misinterpretation. The analysis of the photographs was consistent with past interpretations by GHI.

Case #1: Duran Sanatorium, Costa Rica

This was quite the interesting case, and there were a number of “full spectrum” hits worth noting. Lest I forget to mention it, there was also an EVP, though I personally felt that it was buried in the background noise (especially in the waveform), and there may have been some pattern recognition at play.

One thing I like is how GHI takes multiple photographs in quick succession. Having those reference photographs is a big plus. That said, not all of the “evidence” was equally good. The “streak” of light wasn’t particularly impressive, because it really could have been anything. Granted, it was an anomaly, so it was worth discussion, but I’m not sure why it would have been considered potentially paranormal in origin.

The odd “figures”, on the other hand, were plain as day, and hard to rationalize. I suppose some will say it was some kind of lens flare or similar light phenomenon, unusually rendered due to the nature of the “full spectrum” camera itself, but it’s hard to draw that kind of definitive conclusion without technical review. I wouldn’t say this is proof positive, but I would say that it’s worth a much closer look. (I will also say that I’ve seen a similar form in a “normal spectrum” photo taken by a colleague some years ago, and to this day, I still haven’t heard a solid explanation for it. It stands as an unexplained anomaly.)

The photo of the figure of a girl, however, was a lot harder to discern. Frankly, even when it was pointed out in the enhanced version of the photo, I had a hard time seeing the shape as described. While I see the difference between that photo and the reference photo, I just don’t see the shape as clearly as GHI. I don’t know if that’s solid evidence of anything.

But I think it’s clear why GHI felt that the location was haunted, based on their conclusions.

Case #2: Rose Hall, Jamaica

I loved this case because of all the debunking. It would have been very easy to assume that there was something to the story about the mirror, and I know a lot of groups would have missed the point about the reflection of the vase (even if they wouldn’t admit it). In fact, I like how Robb stood up for the team’s stance and specifically walked the client through the logic process.

I also like the fact that they acknowledged that the audio was all but ruined by the constant keening of the local insect life. Like GHI, I’ve tried to do audio sessions under such annoying conditions, if only to see if the results would be remotely useable. (After all, if clients say they hear voices or other noises, capturing the conditions is part of the investigation and evaluation of the claim.)

I’ve always liked the cases with a good amount of debunking, so for me, this was a great way to end this portion of the second season: one case with compelling “evidence” to ponder, and another with solid debunking. If nothing else, it presents a firm challenge to TAPS and “Ghost Hunters” to rise to the occasion.


Want to comment on this? First, you must log in to your SideReel account!