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GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL Season 3 Advanced Review

Premiering tonight at 9 pm (ET) on Syfy is Season 3 of  GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL . The world traveling paranormal investigation crew is back and I was able to score the first two episodes to review. What sets  Ghost Hunters International  apart from other shows, even Ghost Hunters itself, is the trips to exotic and little known locales to investigate reported sightings  or hauntings. In the first two episodes the crew is sent to Trinidad twice and also Argentina . Although I had heard of both places, they are not that familiar to me. Making it even more interesting were the actual locations, a plantation that was owned by a former slaveowner, a slaughterhouse where more than just animals died, and a leper colony. I would have tuned in just for the locations alone! Read More... //www.daemonstv.com/2011/07/13/ghost-hunters-international-season-3-advanced-review/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+daemonstv+%28Daemon%27s+TV%29

GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL “Hamlet’s Castle” Advance Review

One of my favorite shows, GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL, returns on Wednesday January 5th 2011 at 9:00 PM on the Syfy channel and I was able to check out an advanced copy of the first episode "Hamlet’s Castle". If you are not familiar with the show, Ghost Hunters International is a show that performs serious paranormal investigations all around the world. They collect evidence using the most up to date scientific equipment, analyze the video and audio footage, and then reveal it at the end of the show to the property owners/managers. I like the show not only because I am a fan of ghost investigations, but also because the locations on this show are normally really cool, and very old. The first episode of the winter season takes place in Denmark at a place called Kronborg Castle, which dates back to 1420 and was the inspiration of the famous Elsinore, the castle in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. The castle is enormous and contains some seriously impressive rooms, including a massive ballroom and some creepy dungeons. Some of the claims include shadow figures, footsteps, and voices. The team collects some interesting evidence (although I don’t want to give any spoilers away so I won’t go further). In addition to the evidence, this episode is particularly cool because it takes place in such a old and historical landmark. To Read More Click here.

Ghost Hunters International 2.19: "Pirates of the Caribbean"

There are a lot of rumors flying around, so I've tried to dig into the various stories and get a sense of the facts. Unfortunately, as has always been the case with the Ghost Hunters franchise, Pilgrim Films and Syfy play things very close to vest. And the cast members, often caught in the middle, don't necessarily have all the answers (or the legal ability to provide them). For those not aware by this point, this is supposedly Robb's final episode as leader of the GHI team. As of this point in the series, Brandy, Ashley, Dustin, and Robb are all out of the picture. Some by their own choice, others not so much. And one also gets the distinct feeling that some of those who openly state that they left of their own accord are putting a good face on a bad situation. This is actually not that shocking a turn of events. Unlike "Ghost Hunters", which took an established team and transferred it into the reality TV world, with the organization's leaders as producers on the show, GHI was conceived and constructed by Pilgrim Films. Let's be clear on this: despite what was shown on-screen, Jason and Grant had nothing to do with the creation of GHI. It was clear when the show began that it was all about the production company wanting to expand the franchise. The same is true with "Ghost Hunters Academy". Why does this matter? Well, for one thing, it means that they get to decide who is on the show and under what circumstances. Robb didn't get to decide who was in GHI; that was all Pilgrim Films. Those invited could accept or decline, and that's about it. At the end of the day, while Pilgrim Films can't directly control who shows up on "Ghost Hunters" (the key word being "directly", of course), they have absolute control over GHI. This is why I always made a point of demonstrating how GHI was staying the course and exceeding expectations. For a while there, the team was stable and had a very strong sense of direction and chemistry. They were solid believers, but they were also trying to be more and more thorough and scientific. They were operating from a consistent set of principles, and they were more than willing to take criticism and defend their choices. But let's be honest: GHI repeatedly set an example that TAPS and the GHA candidates couldn't match. None of the shenanigans from "Ghost Hunters" or GHA has ever been seen on GHI. And because of that, GHI has given critics and skeptics an easy point of comparison. More to the point, even early critics of GHI have become aware of that key difference. From a business standpoint, GHI has also slipped in the ratings. The very thing that makes it more enjoyable to serious investigators (the lack of sensationalized "evidence" and consistency of approach) also makes it less popular to the casual audience. A lot of fans of the genre claim it's "boring". So from that perspective, it makes sense that Pilgrim Films would want to make changes on GHI. Making a position on the team the prize for "winning" GHA is one step. Controlling the leadership and composition of the team directly is another. The drawback, of course, is the loss of the consistency of leadership, and thus a loss in the consistency of approach. (As for the rumors that GHI is being cancelled, I don't see that happening. First of all, these decisions were all made months ago, and kept quiet until the episodes aired. Second, all of the materials related to soliciting candidates for the next round of GHA all make it very clear that a position on the GHI team is the prize. And from a Syfy perspective, if GHI had been canceled, it would have been announced by now. Things can change, but until I see something official to change my mind, I'm assuming the show is still going.) One thing I should be very clear on: I am not, in any way, questioning the integrity of the investigators that will be team members of GHI going forward. My understanding is that Britt Griffith will be taking Robb's place as team leader for at least the next production cycle. I have yet to have any reason to question Britt's intentions. Joe Chin is solid enough, and I've liked Scott, Paul and Susan so far. I assume Barry will be staying, and I've enjoyed his technical ideas, even when I question the basis of his theories. But we've also seen how the GHA candidates were being molded in the latest round of that contest, how they were pushed to use bad science and poor critical thinking skills, and how fame was emphasized. And we've seen how more and more of the locations are being chosen for their sensational connections to people like Hitler, Robin Hood, and even (in this case) the Pirates of the Caribbean. And I can't help but wonder if Pilgrim Films is going to start rigging the table, so to speak. Will Britt be the permanent new team leader, or is Pilgrim just putting him in charge until they find someone more amenable to their demands? It comes down to this. With Robb as leader, and with a fairly consistent team at his back, I and many others never had a reason to question whether or not GHI was operating with sincerity and integrity. This new team is going to get the benefit of the doubt (at least from me), but that relative sense of trust is going to have to be re-earned. And with Pilgrim Films and Syfy pulling the strings more directly, there's a reason to be concerned. After all, there is direct evidence of Pilgrim Films altering footage in the past. All that said, this was an interesting case. I like the fact that they showed the team having some fun together. And it was also nice to see them tie the last couple episodes into Susan's family background. I liked how they were incorporating the frequent use of the native language into the investigation. The idea of projecting images to elicit a response is intriguing. It's very similar to the notion of playing music from a given era. I wouldn't personally do it unless the reported activity was connected to the images or music, but if one assumes that the activity is caused by the spirits of the dead, I understand why the method would be used. The team did seem to capture noises of movement, but as a viewer, it was hard for me to take too seriously. It was an exposed site, there was storm activity during part of the investigation, and nothing was actually verified as having moved. There's a lot that could be considered circumstantial. The EMF meters were a bit more interesting. Some may question the use of EMF meters in a lightning storm, but it's not at all clear whether or not this would cause false positives. Lightning is generally considered to be DC in nature, but it also can have properties not unlike a single-cycle of AC current. Even so, as simple experimentation can attest, most EMF meters don't react to the weather, even during strong thunderstorms. With essentially no ambient EMF sources on-site, and little or no chance of the thunderstorm causing the EMF meters to spike, it's hard to know exactly what was causing the meters to react. One problem is that the tri-field meter has two different scales available for magnetic field detection. One is 0-100 mGauss, and the other is usually 0-3 mGauss. I didn't notice which scale was being used, but if it was the 0-3 mG scale, then the spikes weren't particularly high. With no means of identifying frequency, to rule out RF interference, it's difficult to assign any real significance. I'm also not so sure about this EFP device. What I've read about it seems to indicate that it gives a quick and dirty visual representation of the amplitude of the sound captured by a recording device. This seems to be based on frequency. So I have to ask the question: what frequency is being used as the basis of the visual display? For the most part, this is claimed as "proprietary", which raises all the usual red flags. (Remember when Chris Fleming claimed that the K-II was specially calibrated to detect paranormal energy?) As it happens, I do believe, based on experiments conducted in recent years, that genuine EVP does exist (though I make no assumptions on source), and that it is the result of an EMF at a frequency in the audible range. For this reason, it is not heard in real time, but recorded and heard on playback. Assuming the frequency was properly selected, the EFP would be able to detect the rise in amplitude caused by an EVP, especially if it was well above the noise floor. Unfortunately, it would also react to any sound-generated signal in exactly the same way. So there's no way to be certain, unless an area is properly controlled and locked-down, to know if a spike on the device is really due to an EVP being recorded. The EVPs that were captured were all fairly typical: buried in the background noise, barely audible, and therefore subject to interpretation. It's been a while since we've seen a truly impressive EVP out of the "Ghost Hunters" franchise. But then, I see that as realistic; great EVPs are far and few between. Thus ends this summer run of GHI, and Robb's three-year tenure as its team leader. Of the original lineup, only Barry remains. I suppose we will find out if the show can retain its core identity as a result.

Ghost Hunters International 2.18: "Demons of Nicaragua"

When it was first announced that the "winners" of "Ghost Hunters Academy" would be working with the GHI team for further training, I was wary of the consequences. As I said many times then and recently, the strength of the GHI team has been their relative consistency. After a rough start, the team had settled into a solid core with a clear and understandable approach and rationale. It was never a question of integrity with GHI; it was simply occasional disagreement with their conclusions and assumptions (as is common with many groups and investigators in the field). The structure of GHI makes change inevitable. The filming requires an exhausting whirlwind tour of various international sites in one long and grueling production schedule, the team members get paid with nominal compensation, and this places a great deal of pressure on those with family and similar personal obligations. The filming is not year-round, yet taking this much time to film a show internationally makes keeping a steady day job difficult at best. There's a damn good reason why GHI team members are staples of the convention/conference circuit. But even when there are new team members, it can work if there is strong leadership and a dedication to the field over personal gain. GHI has never been afraid to tell it as they see it, and Robb has ensured that the principles of the core team (now he and Barry) are preserved. Even when Pilgrim Films has brought in investigators to fill slots that were open on the team, Robb has made it work. I mention all of this because it appears that the consistency of the team is breaking down. Dustin left for personal reasons (to be with his family and start his Christian ministry). Ashley's eventual departure was mentioned months ago, shortly after her engagement. Joe Chin comes and goes as the apparent pitch hitter for the "Ghost Hunters" franchise. And now there is the apparent loss of Brandy Green. I'll be honest. I never had a problem with Brandy, but she reminded me of Joe Chin to a certain extent. She is the kind of investigator that gets the job done, but ultimately doesn't bring anything unique to the table that makes it on-screen. This is a necessary part of the equation, however, and a staple of the field. Some are leaders, some are self-obsessed fame-chasers, and the rest are just trying to do their best as they know how. But it all comes down to team leadership, as any investigator can tell you. The lack of a command presence can undermine an investigation before it even begins. And one of the most important roles of a team leader is the selection of personnel. The leader has to have the ability to either pick who will be on his or her team, or have the option of removing someone who doesn't fit the organization. We've all seen the effect when this is not the case, even if we don't realize it. After the second season of "Ghost Hunters", Pilgrim Films all but told Jason and Grant that they wanted certain members off the show and others in the spotlight. As producers, they at least had some say in the final casting, but recent years have also suggested that they relented on other questionable requests from Pilgrim Films and Syfy as well. So it's perhaps not too surprising that there was compromise. The point is that Robb is not a producer on GHI, and he does not have the choice of who comes onto his team. So far, Paul and Scott seem to be working out fine; they both come from solid enough backgrounds with compatible approaches and goals. But all things being equal, Pilgrim Films has and does bring in new investigators, and Robb has to make it work. (Though I vaguely recall that Paul was a colleague of Barry's, or at least someone he knew.) Susan Slaughter may be a capable investigator, but let's be honest about her reason for being on the show. She was a "winner" of a contest. A contest that largely consists of candidates looking to cash in on the "fame" of being on a popular cable franchise. That's not a smear against the candidates; that is an accurate description of the thrust of the promotion surrounding the hunt for future candidates for "Ghost Hunters Academy". It's very clear: "Wanna be a ghost hunter on TV? Win GHA and be a part of GHI!" I'm not going to pretend that everyone on GHI now or previously was in it for the right reasons. But this has been a growing epidemic in the field since the paranormal investigation genre exploded in recent years. Otherwise rational and capable investigators are scrambling to get a piece of the action, and the integrity of the field suffers as a whole. And let's face it: there are enough issues within the field in terms of confirmation bias and poor technical understanding. This additional layer doesn't help! One thing is clear: Pilgrim Films has decided to use GHI as the prize for future iterations of GHA. And since we know that the candidates on GHA are being taught junk science (and even blatantly incorrect science), these impending GHI members are coming in with assumptions and training that is incompatible with the current GHI approach. In effect, Pilgrim Films is turning GHI into a clone of TAPS. How long will it be before Robb is no longer the leader, and the amount of "evidence" goes from what is normal in the field to something closer to the oft-debated TAPS level? My own paranoia leads me to suspect that this is the inevitable consequence of GHI's indirect role in demonstrating, by comparison, how questionable TAPS' "evidence" and methods really are. It all comes down to the bottom line: this is exactly what I was afraid of when Karl and Susan were told that they were joining GHI for "winning" on "Ghost Hunters Academy". The dismantling of GHI may be happening slowly, but it is certainly happening. Case #1: Coyotepe Fortress, Nicaragua All the bangs and various sounds in this location were interesting enough, but given the nature of the site, I'm not sure how much of that can truly be pinned down on the paranormal. This is one of those situations where the reported activity and the assumption of "demonic" activity plays against team composure. Barry, in particular, has always shown a tendency to let his beliefs about such things affect his investigative style and conclusions. (This is fairly apparent from his books, so it's not an unfair assessment of edited footage.) The EVP was, in my opinion, questionable. As with many of the EVPs that have been captured of late, it is buried deep in the background noise, which makes it hard to argue as something paranormal in nature. Random noise will produce familiar sounds, and context only counts if it eliminates that factor. Of course, the real draw of this case was the apparent figure caught in the "laser grid". Now, to be fair, I know almost nothing about the grid apparatus itself. I can only assume it works like any other such device. As such, this particular image is pretty damn weird. Note that the apparent figure is causing distortion of the lasers on one side of its "body", but not at all on the other. The distortion is what draws the eye, in fact. Now, I'm not saying this is paranormal. I'm simply not familiar enough with this sort of equipment to identify reasons why there would be that sort of effect within the grid. It may be something fairly obvious to those who are more familiar with such things. I haven't played around with lasers in more than 15 years. So all I can say on this one is that there is something obvious taking place, but I just don't know what it is. Case #2: Leon Museum, Nicaragua This one was similar to the first case, in terms of the unusual sounds and the questionable EVP, but there was one investigative technique that really got under my skin. I've mentioned before that the problem with excessive background noise is that more and more of it produces sounds that, especially in terms of the English language, can result in recognizable words and even phrases. Replacing city noise with the apparent steady hum of a blaring house fan doesn't eliminate that problem; it simply changes the nature of it. More to the point, sit in an otherwise empty room, turn on a nice loud metal propeller-style fan, and just listen to the white noise that is generated. Or, for that matter, listen to any mechanical fan in any HVAC or similar system for a long enough period of time. Eventually, nearly everyone will admit that they start hearing what sounds like whispering of conversation within the noise. It's one of the most common examples typically given to novice investigators for aural pattern recognition. This is why I've never liked the idea of recording EVP sessions with intentional addition of white noise or similar factors, such as running water. It's just a more natural expression of the same principle behind the fallacy of the "ghost box" nonsense. Introduce sources of the same fundamental sounds that comprise human language, and sooner or later, you'll hear what you want to hear.

Ghost Hunters International 2.17: "The Devil's Wedding"

I love episodes like this. Don't get me wrong; I'm just as intrigued by the possibility of a really interesting piece of potential evidence as the next investigator. But I really love it when there's a good amount of logical debunking taking place, and this episode had two great examples of that. Quite frankly, it's more debunking than we've seen out of TAPS in recent years. It's a skill that is, unfortunately, a bit lacking in the field these days. Not that it was ever a major part of the typical paranormal investigator's arsenal. Historically, why would a self-proclaimed demonologist, for instance, take such a critical look at what seems to be compelling evidence? The field is so chock full of assumption and tradition that it sometimes feels like one is taking a dull axe to a petrified tree when chopping away at the unsubstantiated. One would think that there would be a growing awareness in the field of the need to analyze any "evidence" with a critical eye. In other words, the more impressive something seems, the more closely it needs to be examined. There's a huge difference between a genuine anomaly and genuine evidence of paranormal activity. Even context can be misleading. I'm not going to be ridiculous and expect that every investigator is going to step back and assume that an exciting photograph, video, or audio recording might be a false positive. Anticipation will lead one to draw conclusions. But good investigators will line up the "evidence" and try to look at it objectively. They will get other opinions and, when necessary, solicit professional advice. Or, in the absence of definitive answers, admit that it is simply unexplained and leave it at that (at least, until more information is available). I'm happy to say that the people I work have worked with in recent years have developed these skills. We regularly discuss how assumptions and subjective bias might play into interpretations, and do our best to explore other possibilities. Sometimes I may disagree with what a group I work with puts forward as potential evidence, but I respect that there is an ever-strengthening process of review. At the same time, there are countless groups that I've run across (in the real world or online) where they seem to accept anything as evidence of a ghost or even demonic spirits. There is little or no evidence of debunking, and they take any questions about alternative explanations in a less than constructive fashion. If nothing else, it leaves one wondering what kind of message they are sending to their clients, who often have no basis for questioning the veracity of the "evidence" presented. My point is that I liked a lot of the practical debunking taking place in this episode. Beyond the video and audio analysis tips that one could take away from it, there was also the in-field actions that were taken. Some of it probably seemed obvious to the more experienced investigators, or those already of a skeptical bend, but sometimes the obvious is not so obvious to the novice. (In my own field, I see incredibly intelligent and experienced people miss very simple things because they just never thought to look at a problem in certain ways.) This comes to mind (in perhaps a more didactic manner that truly necessary) because I've noticed that other shows, like "Fact or Faked", claim to unleash all kinds of debunking skills on claims of paranormal evidence. Unfortunately, they fall short of that promise, and the paranormal investigative genre still lacks that "Mythbusters" analogue that is so needed. In the meantime, I'll applaud an episode of GHI that gets that job done. Case #1: Fredricksten Fortress, Norway The video of the face was played up a bit in the editing, but I thought Robb did a very good job of explaining how it was just a combination of the equipment malfunction and pattern recognition. I was also appreciative that Barry was able to identify the "screaming" as the sounds of local wildlife. Yes, the editors played that one to the hilt, but it was clearly an animal, regardless of how creepy the sound was. I also liked the fact that the EMF meters were primarily used to determine sources of high EMF, which could then explain the reported sense of presence in that area. Paul and Brandy did a nice and efficient job of working out the various sources, which is a key part of any thorough investigation. Case #2: The Old House, Estonia I thought this case demonstrated rather well how natural building and resident activity can trick the senses, and when combined with somewhat questionable claims and legends, turn into the psychological for reports of paranormal experiences. It's encountered enough in this part of the US, where some buildings are a few hundred years old, so it has to be much more common in parts of the world where the stories trace back a thousand or more.

Ghost Hunters International 2.16: "Wolf's Lair"

I'm not sure I like how often GHI is being sent to these high-profile legendary locations. I understand the marketing allure: pick a location with historical or mythological gravitas, and then viewers will come out of simple curiosity. And I'm sure there is some basic interest on the part of the team. But I personally find it very hard to investigate locations where reported activity is just as likely to be based on expectation and folklore as the genuine article. At least this location makes a certain amount of sense, given that people died there under enormously stressful circumstances. If nothing else, it serves to put various theories related to trauma and activity to the test. But why in the world would anyone expect Hitler to appear there? He survived the assassination attempt! (For the record, I don't think GHI actually expected to see Hitler. But that was the claim of the client!) Most of the investigation involved an outdoor set of locations, so the usual concerns applied. Site access control is certainly important, and a lot of groups will automatically dismiss much of what they capture in such a setting. GHI is hardly in that sort of position, but they did keep their wits about them in most situations. At the same time, Brandy did come across some small evidence that suggests that the security of the area is not quite airtight, and it's hard not to wonder if some of what they heard was the result of interference by thrill seekers. And there's the inevitable wildlife issue to take into account. A lot of what they heard and experienced can, unfortunately, be attributed to such things. (And by the end of the episode, a great deal was dismissed.) The indoor portion of the investigation was a bit more conventional. I once again enjoyed the use of multiple pieces of instrumentation, but I do notice a trend that brought a few things to mind. In particular, I noticed that much of the time spent with the various EMF meters and other handheld devices was spent trying to prompt apparent entities into communicating or otherwise demonstrating their presence. In essence, this amounted to getting the device to light up or otherwise register a sudden increase in whatever parameter they measure. In the past, I've referred to this practice as using instruments as an "electronic Ouija board", which of course has certain negative connotations. But what is the issue? If an investigator believes in spirit communication, and this is a potential means of doing such, why not? For me, it's all about intent and using the right tool for the right job. And as an investigator, I'm also conscious of the financial impact. Setting aside the scientific objections to the logic of using technical instrumentation as a fancy yes/no indicator, why use that kind of instrument for something so simple as that? It effectively ignores the purpose of the instrument in the first place! I thought the EVP in this case was interesting, because even though it was at the same level as the background noise, the words were fairly recognizable. I'm still not convinced, of course, that this was not a matter of pattern recognition. The nature of the structure of the English language is such that there is a better than 50/50 chance of random sounds forming recognizable words, after all. But I think it was a little more problematic to link the apparent EVP to a specific individual. I recognize that the client was the one who ran with the ball and made that tenuous connection, but I was a little surprised to see GHI take to it so completely. I suspect this is another instance of selective editing, however. For all we know, they just brought it up as something that would have been very cool, if it could have been proven somehow, and the editors made more out of it. I say this because the interpretation of the odd "full spectrum" video was a lot more moderate in nature. While Robb did tie it directly to his personal experience (and understandably so), it was not assumed that the apparent figure was a ghost. It was just an interesting anomaly. I would have been just as interested had I been in the same situation, so I appreciated the similar approach. One thing I did find very odd was the static nature of the team assignments. We've seen enough out of GHI to know that this is an unusual turn of events; they rarely fall into the kind of patterns seen with TAPS on the flagship show. It's unusual enough that some have already speculated that this was a move prompted by Pilgrim Films, either during production or in the editing room. Hopefully this is not a trend that will continue.

Ghost Hunters International 2.15: "Sweeney Todd"

For whatever reason, I wasn't aware that Karl and Susan, the "Ghost Hunters Academy" Round 1 "winners", were only going to be on this show for one investigation. I wonder if they knew that as well. Frankly, I've noticed that the candidates from Round 1 of that competition have been treated pretty badly by Pilgrim Films. Then again, given how they were treated in the production of that show, I shouldn't be surprised. The net result for GHI is positive, in my opinion. It means the adjustment from the previous status quo to the new team should be a bit more smooth. It also makes sense of the emphasis on the legendary location during the mid-season premiere, since it was a special event used to highlight the GHA folks. Hopefully that sort of gimmick won't be the norm during this run. For me, this was all about getting used to the new team dynamic and enjoying some of the differences between the staid and predictable TAPS practices and the more professional GHI crew. As always, I like how they switch up partners on a regular basis, and how they use their equipment. Where TAPS has been steadily decreasing the amount of equipment they use throughout an investigation, especially in the sixth season, GHI has a habit of blanketing a location with handhelds and monitoring equipment. Speaking of equipment, I posted an article on my blog discussion the light meter used in the previous episode and exploring alternative options. In essence, it is the old debate over the value of qualitative vs. quantitative data. The meter used during the investigation was fine if the goal is simply to get a sign of a relative change in illumination, where the actual value and measurement of change is not considered important. But for research purposes, something like a datalogging instrument, allowing for concurrent measurement of environmental conditions is the better choice. I bring this up because it lies at the heart of what I've been saying about the standard EMF meters since my detailed breakdown of them in the review for episode 1.7 of "Ghost Hunters Academy". I may go back and break that out into an article on its own, because the same caveats and limitations apply to how the meters are used by GHI. To their credit, it wasn't the specific value (say, 0.8 vs. 8.0) that was deemed significant. It was the unusual step change and fluctuation. And I was pleased to see that Robb made a point to say that it wasn't enough information to declare that something paranormal was taking place. It was another qualitative observation that, as I've said before, makes sense to note as a first-order determination of potential anomalous events. That said, I stick by my criticism of the use of such meters without additional instrumentation to measure frequency. In short, how do they know that it wasn't a momentary fluctuation in the power grid (notoriously problematic in certain parts of England) or a stray RF signal? I imagine this is why Robb made a point to say it wasn't necessarily paranormal. Yet this is precisely why, in my team's recent investigations, we've moved away from drawing any conclusions based on standard tri-field EMF meters, preferring a handheld oscilloscope with a sensor that measures both amplitude and frequency. Case #1: Margam Castle, Wales It's been about 23 years since I've been to Wales, but the memories are still vivid. I didn't visit this particular location, but I did see my share of magnificent old structures and ruins. This episode brought back a lot of those impressions, so I was thankful for that! I'm sure there will be plenty of debate over the "evidence" in this case, particularly the personal experiences. I can't wait for the inevitable claims of bad acting, to go along with the commentary on how people wear their hats, investigators' "annoying" voices, and all the other ridiculous topics that pass as legit criticism of the team in many circles. I will say that I found it interesting that Scott stopped dead in the middle of his sentence, with what I felt was a genuine reaction, and immediately checked to see where Barry was at the time. Skeptics will rightfully note that Barry was not on camera, and there was more than enough time for him to shuffle away to where he was standing once he was on-screen. But as GHI has never played such games in the past, I will continue to give them the benefit of the doubt. As for some of the reports of shadows and so forth, it's hard to take them at face value when the location was relatively "open" and partially exposed to the outdoors, without seeing the location first-hand and knowing what would or would not be a potential explanation. While it did appear to match the client's reports, I'm always wary of outdoor investigations due to the contamination issue. Similarly, while the other EVPs were interesting (if buried in the background noise), the "get out" recording sounded too much like wind over the microphone to me for definitive analysis. I was also on the fence regarding the light that was captured. The reported activity was that it was seen by witnesses and shot around like a comet with a tail, but this light just blinked on, remaining on for several minutes, and then disappeared. So it's not quite the same thing, and the static nature of it is a bit odd. (And I can't remember: did they say the light appeared when people were in the room? Because then I would wonder why it wasn't visible.) Case #2: Ostrich Inn, England I'm not sure what to think of this particular case. On the one hand, it was the familiar second half of an episode, in which the investigation is mostly debunking or lacking in intriguing situations. (Familiar to GH fans, at any rate; GHI usually avoids such predictability.) But then there was that bizarre sighting of the "ghost foot", which was completely unexpected! As a viewer, I'm not sure what that was all about. It certainly looked to me like the duvet was so folded and tussled that it could have given the impression of a human foot being on the bed, at least upon a first, quick glance at it. In the dark, with eyes constantly adjusting and so forth, I think it would be easy enough to make that mistake. (And unlike some, I know the difference between honest mistakes and intentional deception.) Whatever the case, the team clearly believed that the sighting was genuine. And I also have to point out that this is another instance in which reputation and sincerity are a major factor. If this had been TAPS, given the events of recent years, I would have dismissed it outright, given the lack of tangible proof. But GHI has played it straight, so even if I don't see any reason for the audience to accept that it was paranormal, I have no reason to think this was staged or intentionally played up out of proportion. Most importantly, they just threw it out there as an odd occurrence, and didn't use it as a pretext for declaring the site "haunted". Instead, I thought they shifted into a textbook example of client management. I get the feeling Robb and the gang didn't really think much was going on, besides the odd sighting, but that they wanted to make sure the client felt respected. It's one of those aspects of the field that is too easily overlooked. All in all, this was a serviceable episode. While it allowed the audience to let the new status quo settle in, the coverage of the two sites felt a bit rushed in the final edit. But then, it's no secret that I prefer the one case per episode format!

Ghost Hunters International 2.14: "The Spirit of Robin Hood"

A lot has happened since the last batch of GHI episodes. For one thing, there has been another round of "Ghost Hunters Academy", which only served to expose more of the questionable choices and technical flaws of the TAPS team in the process. There was also a Pilgrim Films-mandated cast shakeup, coinciding with another unexpected change in the lineup. After many years with TAPS and GHI, Dustin Pari has chosen to retire from the televised paranormal investigation world. By his own words, he plans to focus more on his family and building a Christian ministry in his area. Anyone familiar with Dustin recognizes that this is completely in keeping with his choices and statements in the past, and his faith has always been a large part of his take on the paranormal. I believe him when he says this had nothing to do with issues surrounding the franchise or fellow cast members; his working relationship with Barry Fitzgerald continues to be a strong one, for example. Incidentally, Dustin and his frank expression of faith over the years has been a fundamental part in my interpretation that the majority of the cast members, especially on the GHI end, are uninvolved or unaware of any fabrication, direct or indirect, that might be taking place on "Ghost Hunters". I still believe that the majority of that activity, to whatever degree it may exist, is confined to Jason and Grant. GHI has been impressive for its ability to adjust to frequent cast changes with a consistency that puts the original series to shame. I've never had the feeling that anything questionable was being done to sensationalize GHI cases. Granted, there are still the usual technical debates and quibbles over "evidence", but that's always going to be the case. Viewers and GHI members see the experience from radically different perspectives. At the same time, it's been a while since the team has encountered a cast change of this magnitude. Pilgrim Films essentially shoved Karl Pfieffer and Susan Slaughter, the "winners" of Round 1 of "Ghost Hunters Academy", right down the throats of the GHI team. To their credit, they've taken it with unusual grace, at least in public. I know it would have pissed me off to no end to have that choice taken out of my hands. This is somewhat mitigated by Robb's replacement for Dustin: a former colleague from his original Florida crew named Scott Tepperman. This effectively expands the team from six to eight investigators, which could make things interesting. On the whole, it should be beneficial; many of the GHI locations are ridiculously large, and adequate coverage/site control has always been a challenge. But it also means that the editing is going to have to be selective to give everyone fair representation. But in this case, the team is walking into a situation involving a questionable legendary haunt (Robin Hood, of all things) while adjusting to a major team change. I was frankly expecting disaster to strike. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the team managed to come together and investigate. Once again, this is a testimony to the inherent strength of the core team; Robb and Barry maintain a strong team unity. Ironically, I think I'm going to have a harder time adjusting to Scott and his more aggressive attitude than Karl or Susan, who were more subdued in their approach. Maybe Scott is just a bit too familiar a personality, given his New York origins! Susan did exhibit some of her "empathic" skills that she mentioned in overly dramatic style during Round 1 of GHA, but it was a lot less annoying in this situation. If anything, she was doing a good job of documenting the details of her personal experience. (It doesn't hurt that I'm a sucker for goth/emo girls!) Speaking of the superficial, I've noticed that both Brandy and Ashley have gotten a bit of a makeover since the last whirlwind worldwide tour. In particular, I was stunned by Ashley's change from blonde to chestnut. Frankly, I thought she was a lot more attractive, and she was already a beautiful girl. For her part, Brandy seems to have adjusted her makeup to the high-definition standards; last time around, it seemed a bit overdone. As I mentioned, this was a location that was, at best, questionable in its claims. The string of "ifs" and "could bes" during Brandy's introduction was more than enough of a reminder that this was going to be an odd start to this part of the season. And Martin, the tour guide, seemed to add to that impression, along with the many shots of that Robin Hood statue. I've been harsh in my criticism of misuse of technical equipment during the latest run of GHA, so when I say I don't trust the EMF meters being used in this episode, I refer readers back to my review for episode 1.7 of GHA for a very long write-up of their technical limitations. In essence, without a measure of the frequency, to exclude man-made 60-cycle and RF noise, the amplitude is effectively meaningless. (And minor changes of around 0.1 mGauss are well within the error of the measurement.) So when one meter is used, I can't trust the results. However, I will admit that there is more value when several such meters are used to cover an area. It may not give any quantitative information, as the amplitude is still a composite of everything in the detectable range, but it does allow for a qualitative observation of locality. An array of meters, combined with a comprehensive baseline to identify the man-made sources of EMF within the space, can give a high-level indication of where something unusual is happening. (The idea being that an RF signal or power grid surge would, more than likely, trip off multiple meters, not just one.) I can't speak to how many meters they had arrayed in the room when Robb felt the chill and the potential EVP was recorded, but I did like the more comprehensive approach. As for the EVP itself, it wasn't particularly impressive. All of the EVPs were buried in the background noise, as seen in the graphical representation, and that means it could have easily been pattern recognition. At least one of the ones supposed to be "yes" could have been simple movement captured at the right time. Without the full context of the original recordings, it's hard to accept these as truly notable. I'm not familiar with the light-meter that the team was using, and I couldn't get a clear shot of the make/model information to find the specs online. Whatever the case, this is another instance where I want to know more before judging the results. It seemed interesting, but how does that instrument work? What does it measure, and what is the nature of the output? Without that understanding of the instrument, my natural agnostic bent prevents me from accepting this as paranormal activity at first glance. I was a bit more intrigued by the series of full spectrum photos. It's always good to see a progression of before, during, and after when an apparent event taking place. Just based on what was shown, it doesn't look like typical lens flare or the usual light anomalies. Much like the light-meter, though, I don't really know how that "full spectrum" camera works. There's the actual high-price version on the market, and then there's the questionable mod-version that Andy Coppock and others have touted. Regardless, until I know more, I can only say that it's the kind of anomaly that would also have caught my attention and warranted further investigation. All in all, it wasn't too bad of a return to the airwaves, and many of the challenges were resolved without too much disruption. It's good to have the best team of the "Ghost Hunters" franchise back in action!

GHOST HUNTERS INTERNATIONAL - The Spirit Of Robin Hood - Review

Ghost Hunters International returns for an all-new summer season today, Wednesday July 14th, at 9 pm on the Syfy channel. What's great about this season is that the cast is joined by Ghost Hunters Academy alumni Karl Pfeiffer and Susan Slaughter (which is the perfect last name for a paranormal investigator in my opinion). In tonight's episode of GHI The Spirit Of Robin Hood, the crew head to Nottingham, England to investigate the Galleries of Justice. The Galleries of Justice is a place shrouded in mystery. Although history tells us this place held public executions and the torture of prisoners, there are also some that believe if the Robin Hood popularized in books and movies was in fact a real outlaw, he would have been incarcerated at this prison. I don't know about you but to me that sounds freaking awesome. Torture, fictional characters, angry prisoners - what more can you ask for in a location? To Read More Click Here . If You Missed This Episode Watch It Here Online Now

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.