Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files 1.6: "The Caretaker/Cutter"

The pattern for this show has now been firmly established, and I doubt that anything is going to change it appreciably moving forward. The investigation style is going to be as questionable as ever, and the conclusions are going to be as specious. Sadly, many people are taking this as an example of good science, and it boggles the mind.

The first case, at least, involves an interesting video. Not necessarily because it is some kind of spectral form caught on film or anything, but because there are several avenues that could be taken in terms of follow-up investigation. I think the team only touched on a handful of the possibilities, and as usual, wasted time with experiments that didn't match the conditions described.

This is one problem I have with a lot of theories tossed out by skeptics. The "explanations" often ignore inconvenient details of the reported activity. If the reports say that there was no noise at the time of the recording, and all the video evidence supports that, why in the world would you think an ATV would provide a good explanation?

My first impression was that it looked like some kind of image that was added to the video after the fact. While I couldn't get a good look at the video frame by frame, I thought it looked vaguely familiar. I just couldn't put my finger on it. So I wonder why the team didn't conduct that sort of video analysis themselves. It seemed like the logical first step.

But even assuming that, why couldn't it have been something as simple as a spider web that just happened to be in the right position for the IR light on the camera to illuminate it while the person holding the camera moved? Granted, that might be hard to replicate, but again, this is something that a close frame-by-frame analysis should be able to identify.

The second case was a bit of an oddity. While the team did pick a very specific video and incident related to cattle mutilation, it seemed like they were using this as an excuse to discuss the phenomenon as a whole. Which, all things being equal, is not a valid logical process. Using one example to draw conclusions about thousands of reports is like going on a single "ghost hunt" and presuming that it is representative of every claim of paranormal activity.

Not only that, but this is a topic that has been studied at length for decades. Not unlike the case with the car being "pushed" over the train tracks, this is something the team could have prepped for by conducting a quick Google search. Every test they conducted has been conducted (and documented) before, and the same conclusions reached. So it wasn't particular ground-breaking. (Though I'm not even going to comment on the idea of testing laser cutting with a laser pointer. Someone's science degree needs to be taken back.)

Had their conclusions been limited to the video at hand, that would have been fine (if a bit self-serving). But there were undertones that suggested this was meant to be a statement regarding the phenomenon as a whole. And while I'm not inclined to believe there's anything abnormal about the cattle mutilation claims, I do take note that there are reports of unusual properties of the corpses in some cases. And that is where the real skeptical inquiry should be focused.

I see the cattle mutilation question as being very similar to the crop circle mystery. Yes, the vast majority of crop circles can be explained by mundane means. That has been discussed and explored hundreds of times by now. But there are those odd examples of crop circles where the properties of the plants themselves are altered in strange ways. Taking the easy route doesn't help explain any of that, so the mystery persists. A good skeptical treatise on the subject would forego the smarmy satisfaction of simply declaring it all fake and would explain how those unusual properties might emerge.

I recognize that these episodes were all filmed and on the shelf long before they hit the air. They are now scrambling to film new episodes to air later in the year. So it's quite possible that the many criticisms and suggestions for improvement may have filtered down to the production team. That said, the show has been enough of a success that there's probably little desire on anyone's part to make adjustments. So I predict the show will continue to offer questionable scientific methodology and shoddy logic when it returns. But time, as they say, will tell.

I still say that Skunk Ape video was just a guy in an ape suit, though.


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