- Why am I doing this? Or, why do I want to do this? No, not the generic “solving the mysteries of mankind” answer, but why do you personally spend your time, effort, and money pursuing this? Is it a personal quest for answers? Search for spiritualism? You may not have a definitive answer or you might just be doing it for the thrill, but the further down this list you truly go the truth may rise to the top.
- What do I want to get out of this? This question rides on the back of the why question. Once you know why you are doing it you may realize it is a personal pursuit or desire for subjective stimulation or even a quick way to fame. If this is the case you should stay away from client-based cases. If your answer to question 1 is to prove ghosts exist with cameras and EVP you'll need to do more than merely be a ghost hunter as subjective hunts will only create more questions than actually providing answers. Many do this from the allure of those on television, but ask yourself if an ego-driven motive is worth all of the hassle for just 15 minutes of fame.
- What am I willing to invest? A follow up would be, “And is it worth it?” A financial stake is more than some people can do let alone giving up weekends and many evenings pursuing this. The costs of a serious team can weigh down on anyone and the more you go down that path the more of an investment of time and money it will become.
- What are my beliefs about the paranormal? This is an important one. This one question will define what type of an investigator you are as well as how you approach cases as well as whom you surround yourself with. This includes, but is not limited to; belief in ghosts, demons/angels, camera orbs, use of various equipment, full moons creating better ghost atmosphere, solar storms creating better ghost atmosphere, investigating in the dark, investigating during "dead time", lockdowns being a good method of investigating, what ghosts are defined as (parapsychology definitions versus spiritual), and so on.
- Am I willing to challenge my own beliefs about the paranormal?
- Am I willing to continue to learn? Certification courses cause anger with some individuals, but where else can one become educated in this field? Books offer a good start, but eventually everyone needs to ask others who have come before them in order to make true sense of things. It's one thing to regurgitate facts, but it's completely different to put theories to work. This is why many teams merely walk around in the dark asking silly questions. Many certification courses are garbage since those that created them are merely passing on beliefs and opinions or only know book definitions and have never applied much of it in the field. However, there are some courses that provide some great information and education (IMHS and TFU). Are you willing to look to others to continue to make yourself a better researcher and investigator? (Interviewing skills, electronics, critical thinking, science, parapsychology, etc.)
- What are my goals with doing this? This question creates a focus of the first and second question now that you have pondering the above questions. This goes beyond getting a television show or writing a book and is an evolved look at what you want out of the field and what you are willing to do in your life to make it happen. Think of how you would want to be remembered as a person after you are gone. Imagine, as grim as it sounds, standing at your own funeral –
- What path will I take to get to these goals? This heavily relies on pondering the above questions. If you are not willing to evolve with your beliefs as well as your knowledge your path will be a short one, guaranteed. This is true with any type of goals in life and shortcuts and laziness will lead you nowhere. Wishing and hoping just don't cut it and while timing and luck may come into play nothing is better than working hard, making sacrifices, and pushing yourself to new limits.
- What have I learned so far? Occasionally stepping back and looking at where you came from can help give your perspective on what you have learned and experienced along the way. This can aid you in identifying weaknesses or potential flaws in your methods or beliefs and may serve to help guide you on a better path. Taking stock every once in a while can help you reorganize your direction and help you obtain new goals and set new personal expectations for accomplishments such as writing books, being a vendor at a paranormal convention or even getting up and speaking at one.
- What can I do better / and how do I get there? Creating a personal business plan around goals or self-improvement needs is a good way to motivate as well as compartmentalize obtaining goals. If you break things into small chunks within a timetable and provide a pathway to getting to each goal you will be able to become better in all aspects of life. Once you have reviewed and pondered the first 9 questions the tenth will be much easier than thinking about it right now.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Saturday, May 14, 2016
|My table at the Butler Paranormal Convention|
|Fred Saluga receives a Lifetime Achievement award during the |
Butler Paranormal Conference from Terrie Seech of BORU.
|My tent (left) and the pavilion.|
The event was wet from rain during Friday, but a night hike turned into an interesting sighting by researcher and speaker Steve Kulls the "Squatch Detective" as he got an interesting find on his thermal camera (his team later determined it to be a bear). I stayed at the camp ground to take a group out that included a few kids. I let them do "howls" and "woops", answered their questions as well as
|During my presentation|
Photo by Kenny Biddle
The event on Saturday was held under a warm sun that helped curbed the cold morning and wet grounds. After an introduction to the program I was the first speaker doing a variation of my "Balanced Look at Cryptozoology" program. Steve Kulls was up next with a very deep look at Bigfoot with quite a bit of science and a level head. Also up was Dave Dragosin and then Stan Gordon. The speaker's lineup was mysteriously perfect, there was my presentation that discussed what cryptozoology was about with the others filling in the gaps and Stan Gordon finishing it off with his never ending research of cases that were peppered all around the area we were in. The event also had workshops that discussed some necessary tenets of field work. Of course the big hit of the weekend was having "Trapper" John R. Tice from the television show "Mountain Monsters". Tice was a HUGE draw for the kids and while I'm not a fan of the show John is a very down to Earth guy and really brought a nice dynamic to the event.
|"Trapper" John R. Tice talks with fans during the event. He was|
next to the booth of Steve Kulls who was next to me and to my
right was Stan Gordon.
Saturday night we headed out again for another expedition. There was still a large group heading out to a location near state game lands as well as a group staying behind at the camp grounds. The group at the camp grounds turned out to be a lot larger than we had anticipated, but we did the best we could leading them out on a trail that was just too small to support the 60 plus people that wanted to be involved. We hung out until around 11 PM when a storm began rolling in. It was a fantastic time and despite the muddy conditions I heard nothing but positive raves about the weekend. The event also had singer Walter Shrum who's song "Searching for Bigfoot" (watch highlight video below) had everyone singing the words "Bigfoot, Sasquatch, back in the woods, Bigfoot, Yeti, in your neighborhood!" It was also great to meet a lot of new people, those I only knew through social media, those I don't normally get to see or have not seen in a while. It was great catching up with Butch Witkowski as well as meeting ParaNexus member Anthony Holmes, meeting Kenny Biddle and hanging out with Jay Bachochin (who drove all the way from Wisconsin to attend) on Sunday afternoon just prior to leaving and of course the many other people I forgot to mention.
For me, I had one more event which I just concluded Thursday night at the Westerville Public Library just northeast of Columbus, Ohio. I did yet another variation of my "Balanced Look at Cryptozoology" program with the subtitle "Rumor or Reality" which explored legends in Ohio in addition to the basics program. This marks my eighth consecutive year at the library and I will return again in the fall for a ghost program.
Check out this awesome YouTube video created by Jay Bachocin from Chum Bucket Studios about the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Camping Adventure (and check out Walter Shrum's music!).
Monday, January 25, 2016
“Wow!” Signal: A new potential explanation and my journey through history before the mystery is (possibly) lifted
On August 15, 1977 at 11:16 PM eastern daylight savings time the Ohio State University Radio Observatory (OSURO), or affectionately called the “Big Ear” radio telescope in Delaware, Ohio, recorded what is now known as the “Wow!” signal. At the time the signal came in no one was at the facility. A few days later (possibly August 19th) Jerry R. Ehman was reviewing printouts that were delivered to him at his home from Gene Mikesell, a technician who was in charge of taking care of the IBM computer that was doing all the work at the site. Every 3 to 4 days Gene would stop, reset, and then restart the computer due to its limited amount of room for data and then bring the stack of printouts to Ehman to look through. The men were part of a volunteer effort to detect narrow band signals that could possibly be sent from an extraterrestrial source known as the SETI project, short for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, which uses various satellites to search for signals in space. Ehman and others involved in the project had formerly worked at the radio telescope until the National Science Foundation suddenly shut off funding in August of 1972. In December of 1973 until 1995 the radio telescope was used for the volunteer effort of the SETI project after it had completed a radio survey of the Andromeda Galaxy in 1963 and the Ohio Sky Survey between 1965 and 1971.
|Color copy of the signal with a note from Jerry Ehman on December 18, 1999|
on display at Perkins Observatory in Delaware, Ohio. (click to enlarge)
As Jerry sat and reviewed the printouts he suddenly saw the data from a few days prior. In a vertical column with the alphanumerical sequence “6EQUJ5”, that represents 72 seconds worth of information gathered from the radio telescope, he circled the data and wrote “Wow!” in the margin. The alphanumeric code essentially describes the intensity variation of the signal and it has been given two different values for its frequency within the 1420 Megahertz range which puts it in the hydrogen line frequency. What does this mean for searching for extraterrestrials? SETI believed that since hydrogen is the most common element in the universe extraterrestrials might use that frequency to transmit a strong signal. The problem is researchers have been unable to find the signal from the original source of the constellation Sagittarius, near the Chi Sagittarii star group.
John Kraus, Bob Dixon, Ehman, and others poured over the data and attempted to find a cause. All terrestrial causes were ruled out, in the words of Ehman ruled out means “to assign a very low probability to.” The researchers also considered other celestial explanations, but nothing could satisfactorily explain the data. Unfortunately, the data was limited due to the technology and software used, and since it was never repeated does not offer any additional help to ever be solved.
In 2016 a new hypothesis was presented after nearly 40 years of a lack of a definitive answer. Antonio Paris, a professor of astronomy at St Petersburg College in Florida, and Evan Davies proposed that the signal actually originated from one of two comets that were flying by at the time. Many researchers feel that since the signal has not been observed again from the same origin that it must have been something passing through the area between the observation point and the intended target of the Sagittarius constellation. James Bauer of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is skeptical of this hypothesis since the comet would have to release a significant amount of hydrogen to produce such a signal. Paris states that in order to rule out the comets his hypothesis needs to be tested. Comet 266P/Christensen will be back in that region on January 25, 2017, and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs) on January 7, 2018. By studying their radio emission and how quickly they move in the sky, astronomers should be able to tell if it really was this that produced the “Wow!” signal.
Some may think that Antonio Paris is just here to ruin the longstanding belief that this is a piece of leading evidence in the support of life outside of the Earth. Paris is the founder and director of the Aerial Phenomena Investigation team that is a worldwide effort to actively research and investigate UFO claims. His goal is not to discredit Ehman, but to hopefully provide answers that have plagued this code for so long.
|The computer that captured the "Wow!" signal in 1977|
on display at Perkins Observatory in Delaware, Ohio
The “Big Ear” observatory was built from 1956 to 1961 and was first turned on in 1963. The concrete structure was built on the grounds near the Perkins Observatory that was built starting in 1923 and was not completed until 1931 when the 69 inch mirror was finally installed for the telescope. The “Big Ear” was last used in 1997. While the Perkins Observatory still stands the Ohio State University Radio Observatory was demolished in 1998 due to a variety of circumstances as the land was sold to developers. The area where this historic signal was detected is now part of a golf course. An Ohio historical marker stands near the entrance to the golf course on highway 23 known as Columbus Pike just south of downtown Delaware, Ohio.
|Pieces of the reflector screen of the "Big Ear" radio telescope|
on display at Perkins Observatory
|Exterior of the Perkins Observatory on the night of my visit|
- News story about Antonio Paris and his new hypothesis: IFL Science
- Hydrogen Clouds from Comets 266/P Christensen and P/2008 Y2 (Gibbs)are Candidates for the Source of the 1977 “WOW” Signal: The paper submitted by Paris and Davies
- “Big Ear” observatory memorial website
- In depth explanation of the “Wow!” signal by Jerry Ehman
- “Wow!” signal Wikipedia
- Perkins Observatory: http://perkins.owu.edu/
- Ohio History Connection page on the "Wow!" signal: The home of the original printout
Wednesday, January 20, 2016
“If you throw something up without fact-checking it and you’re the first one to put it up, and you get millions and millions of views, and later it’s proved false, you still got those views."
- Ryan Grim, the bureau chief in Washington for The Huffington Post
- Ryan Grim, the bureau chief in Washington for The Huffington Post
There are many ways to look for the truth in a story, but the easiest way is to spot the misinformation. To spot the things that the story relies on as fact and expose it as a lie is the best method of dismantling a story quickly. However, there are some cases in which facts must merely be looked for elsewhere from more reliable means. An example would be in the case of a famous person dying, do not rely on fan sites for the information instead look toward an official channel of a band’s website or their agent for an official release.
I deal with identifying the validity of stories each and every day as I gather information for my weekly show, the Paranormal News Insider. I pride myself on searching for answers instead of merely regurgitating what appears in print on other sites. While I use many methods to search for the truth within information I have a fairly reliable method that has become a habit of use that I use when reading any type of story. This is what I call my basic “outside in” approach. With this approach I look at the top and bottom and move my way in to the core of the story to look for details of a hoax or misinformation. Once key details are established I can begin searching other resources outside of this page for more details to either confirm or deny this story, yet this also comes with pitfalls. Some stories have aspects of these that need to be researched to get a better feel of whether the story was created or shared by a credible source. Establishing the source is critical in determining the validity of a story.
With any story a headline can be deceiving. Many of us have become reliant upon a headline to provide us as much information as possible to understand a story without actually having to read it. If you have an interest in a story or intend to share the information it would behoove you to actually take time to read the entire story for content. There are many clues within the body of a story that can help you decide whether there is enough credibility in the story to pass it on. Again, headlines can be deceiving and the content of the story may have a different version of what you might actually think is there based on the deception.
Researching general stories found online:
The first step in determining the validity of any story is to first take the time to read it. A simple way of getting to the truth is to see if there is already someone who has done research on a story is to merely search for it. Use the keywords of a story and then enter “hoax” or other words that you think of that your gut is telling you about the story. Websites like Snopes.com, Hoax-slayer.com, urbanlegends.about.com, truthorfiction.com, and many others provide a resource of sanity about many of the hoaxes on the Internet. Granted, one rule I always live by; NEVER RELY ON ONE RESOURCE FOR THE TRUTH!
Many people question the reliability of the leader of these sites; Snopes. This website is edited by a husband and wife team and while there may be mistakes all of the information gathered for a story is given out so the research behind every claim is there for the world to see. They have been judged by a number of other sites to be as accurate as you will find onthe subjects and the accuracy outweighs the minimal mistakes. The same holds true for another valued, yet many times questioned, resource; Wikipedia. This resource of information has received a bad rap from many people since it is an open-source where anyone can edit and update information. However, Wikipedia is watched closely for updates and requires legitimate resources for major changes or additions. Many have never questioned the validity of Encyclopedia Britannica, but Wikipedia has been found to be just as reliable mostly due to the diligent eyes on its content.
My “outside in” approach to validating online media:
1. Consider the source
- Is this a legitimate website? Is the URL spelled correctly? No? It may be a mirror site (or spoof site) and is created to fool you into thinking it is a credible source. Is this a parody website? (onion.com type). Is this from a website where regular people contribute in blog style? This is by far the most common type of website hoax where stories are spread via misinformation and will take the longest to unravel at times since the story is written by the author’s opinion and web of lies and misinformation. A list of these sites would be in the hundreds (see a small list below before the resources) and includes sites like beforeitsnews.com, many government, conspiracy, and UFO sites that are merely fronts for people’s thoughts, ideas, opinions, fears, and agendas.
2. Consider the resource
- The single most important thing after determining the validity of the website that the story appears on is finding the original source of the story. Any good media story that is merely copied and pasted will provide a link to the original source of the story at the bottom or sometimes the top of their posting. If there is a link open this one in a new tab and begin to evaluate it to determine the time/date is actually earlier than the one you originally opened. If this source appears to be an earlier version this is where you continue your research on the story beginning with determining if this is a legitimate source as well as if this story has a resource listed at the top or bottom of the story. The caveat with this is that there are some sites that back dates stories (such as celebrity death hoaxes) to confuse people. Continue to chase these sources until you reach the bottom of the rabbit hole. Unfortunately, many online media outlets do not take the time to fact check and are merely concerned with website traffic. Getting you to click on their website puts money in their pockets based on advertisers, so they honestly care little about the facts up front.
- Go local. You can also search for and look at other sources local to where the story purportedly took place. During the Jerusalem UFO sightings that seemed extremely credible I was not able to find any mention of the sightings in any local or regional online sources in the area and have found the same in many other hoaxes. However, during recent unexplained noises in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, the best updates were available from the local newspapers which printed updates which were then copied by the regional news channel websites. Go to Google and search for the city where the story takes place and use words like “newspaper” or “news” and you should be able to find local sources. Granted, searching for phrases of meaning with the story can help speed up the process by bringing up the multitude of copies of the story and will allow you to see where they are coming from to aid in the search for the original source.
- If the story does not list a source for the story then the content must be put into question as well as the person behind the post. This is a positive indication that the person may have made this story up or has copied other information and created a version of a story about something else. Don’t be afraid to email someone associated with the site to find the source of their content; their answer or lack thereof will guide you to your answer. In some cases, such as a UFO, ghost, or cryptid news site the story may have been submitted to them. The question is then; did they evaluate, research, or investigate this story or merely put it up on the website as quickly as possible? Hoaxers and attention seekers will find sites like these to get their “stories” out in public quickly.
3. Consider the content
- Is the story filled with frequent misspellings, run on sentences, or is the structure of the story all over the place? Granted, punctuation is not something many in the media worry about these days as they rely on spell check and many times the comments section will point out issues which they will silently correct.
- Does the content seem to merely support and idea, opinion, or agenda more than actually reporting an event or story about something or someone? If so, this website is obviously peddling an agenda and not a legitimate story. I recommend using key terms in the article to be highlighted, right clicked, and searched for current information beyond this story and those that have copied that information until an actual source can be found if you have not done so already.
4. Consider the evidence
- They say a picture is worth a thousand words and articles can live and die with them. While sadly it has become common practice for many news agencies to alter photographs in order to focus on certain things others will immediately fire you for such an act. Photographs have been edited long before digital methods such as Photoshop came along and most of us take edited photographs for granted as they appear on nearly every single magazine on the newsstands.
- Many images are altered to provide visual evidence to support the story. If a story is reliant upon an image you can take simple steps to search for an original unaltered image if one exists. There are two methods; Google image search and TinEye that search the Internet for photographs that have been placed on the web and have been crawled and recorded on search engines. Both of these resources have plugins that will allow you to right click on the image and search from the prompt (see resources below). You will have to scroll through examples of these photographs and see if you can find other versions of this photograph that indicate that the one in the story has been tampered with.
- There are limitations to mere image searching. For starters, if the person is using a photograph that has not been crawled and is not preexisting on the Internet you will obviously not find the original. Also, if an image is altered significantly it may not show up in simple image searches. You can combat this by cropping the image or altering the image eliminating an area you feel is put in digitally using simple methods such as using paint on Windows-based computers. After retouching you can upload it to TinEye to see if the alterations helped the search. Another reason for images not being found is if they are screen captures of videos. On more than one occasion I have traced an altered photograph to a video. In Google you can search for topics by category and if I hit a dead end with pictures I may try to search for relevant videos on the specific topic of the photograph to see if there is a video with the image.
- Be mindful that just because you are unable to find an altered image does not mean the photograph in the story is legitimate. There are many other ways to determine the validity of photographs such as using InfranView and other software to find image inconsistencies created from digital manipulation to looking at the metadata, but I’ll save that for a more in-depth look at uncovering the truth.
5. Consider the comments
- One highly overlooked method of finding the truth is based on those commenting on the story. Granted, reading through comments on stories that rely on belief tend to be full of opinions and arguments, but occasionally there will be a crusader of research (such as myself) that will jump in and provide useful information that can dispel these stories. I usually will peruse the comments section of the viral post as well as the original source to seek out clues or information that can help me unravel as hoax.
I will cover YouTube and other videos in a separate blog post in the future.
Sites to question or avoid based on who is able to publish on these sites, their agenda, or other questionable reasons:
- Beforeitsnews.com, NaturalNews.com, InfoWars.com, DailyCurrant.com, NationalReport.net, WorldNewsDailyReport.com, AmericanNews.com, Celebtricity.com, Huzlers.com, DoctorOz.com, TheNewsNerd.com, News-hound.org, NewsWatch33.com, TheRacketReport.com, WeeklyWorldNews.com, Demyx.com, Empirenews.net, MediaFletcher.com, EmpireSports.co, Disclose.tv, FoodBabe.com, Chopra.com, ChristianAnswers.net, Heartland.org, TheLapine.ca, MediaMass.net, Newslo.com, NewsBuzzDaily.com, EmpireNews.net, TheOnion.com, The DailyMash.co.uk, Rumormillnews.com, Whatreallyhappened.com, Drudgereport.com, blacklistednews.com, rense.com, inquisitor.com, examiner.com, even huffingtonpost.com. This is by no means a complete list!
Resources and further reading:
- TinEye: Reverse image search, the ultimate resource for discovering other sources of pictures by entering URL or uploading directly to system. TinEye has a plug in that allows for right click usage on multiple browser platforms; chrome, firefox, IE, safari, and opera.
- Google Image Search Chrome Plugin: While you can search and advance search images by going to Google.com you can use this plugin by right clicking over an image the same way as TinEye.
- Snopes: The leader in truth finding.
- Hoax Slayer: Another leader in the truth.
- Urban Legends at About.com: Hosted by David Emery.
- Truth or Fiction: A non-partisan site geared toward uncovering recent urban legends and hoax stories.
- Better Read That Again: Web Hoaxes and Misinformation
- Evaluating Internet Resources: From Teacher Tap, an excellent resource.
- Lies, Damn Lies and Viral Content: How News Websites Spread(and Debunk) Online Rumors, Unverified Claims and Misinformation.
- How to Spot Lies, Hoaxes and Misinformation Online
- The Observers’ guide to verifying photos and videos on social media networks.
- You're not going to read this: But you'll probably share it anyway: A study of how stories are read, or not read, and shared on social media.
- Facebook Is Cracking Down on Viral Hoaxes. Really. A look at how Facebook has attempted to slow the problem.
- Don't Be Fooled! A Guide to Fake News Websites: From David Emery of About.com
- Posing Questions of Photographic Ethics.
- Photojournalism Behind the Scenes: An excellent view of how photographers influence events.
- What Happens When Photoshop Goes Too Far.
- National Press Photographers Association Code of Ethics.
- DHMO.org: Dihydrogen monoxide research division: A parody website that shows how people will sometimes believe anything!
- Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus: Another parody website that is not viral, but would certainly confuse a lot of people.
- Museum of hoaxes: A nice collection of stories across the ages.
- Fake websites or spoof websites. Examples of false sites to aid in evaluating internet resources.
- Small list of hoax sites for educating people: Many of these are old or no longer working, but are some of the best created!
- Top Internet hoaxes: A short list of some of the best hoaxes over the years.