Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Meteor impact in Michigan? End of the world??

NASA, the National Weather Service, and other officials recently confirmed that a meteor was seen (and filmed) over Michigan on Tuesday, January 16, 2018, at about 8:08 PM. NASA stated the meteoroid was probably only a yard or two in diameter, but created a very bright flash in the sky that qualifies it pretty much as a bolide or fireball. The event also created loud rumbling and even seismic activity measured as a 2.0 magnitude earthquake. Initially, many thought this was caused by thunder or explosion. It took a little while for the dust to settle and for the meteor sighting to be researched and confirmed.

Seeing such a bright meteor event in the sky is fairly rare and the fact that this was seen from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana made this a trending article on social media as well as the mainstream media. The initial reaction to the story was a little bit of panic that is typical when something unusual happens.

However, it didn't take long for someone to throw a wrench into what was already a scary story to make it confusing and potentially scarier. The Daily Star, based in the United Kingdom, published their story on Wednesday with the headline, "Alien invasion? UFO seen hurtling through sky and EXPLODING in shock footage".

Photographs began circulating online of what appeared to be a large fire caused by the meteorite impact in the center of a city. The city was said to be Taylor, Michigan, and the photographs began to spark fear and confusion as well as speculation of an attack, explosion, alien invasion, or that this meteorite impacted the ground and caused this scene.

In the trio of photographs shared about this story state that these are light pillars, which from what I see is pretty accurate. However, it seems that many took these photographs as a link to the meteor story and put them together with a dose of panic, a heaping of speculation, and a dash of misunderstanding.

The reality is these photographs in Taylor, Michigan, are of a garage fire that occurred around 8:25 PM local time. The photographs were quickly spread via social media, probably not with the intention of misleading people but it happened anyway. Again, many people took this as a correlation with the meteor, but officials reacted to the flying rumors with an article Tuesday night as well as a post on Wednesday afternoon.

The post simply stated, "Social media was ablaze within minutes of a photo being shared from down the street of the fire. People assumed that due to the timelime the meteor, or at least a piece of it was responsible for the fire.Fire Department officials confirmed there was no truth to that rumor. The leaking fuel and oil was the cause of the blaze."

The speculation into the photographs will surely continue to get ridiculous, oh, wait, never mind it's already happening. It seems some are telling others this was a missile attack covered up by a meteor sighting.

Clever, but just a way to create panic out of something simple to explain. This particular post has been shared 50,000 times versus the one of the garage fire that was shared less than 35,000 times when I collected the screen shots. I guess "if it bleeds it leads" is a true sentiment whether it's the news or social media. I'm sure there are other examples of this type of ignorance but hopefully enough people know the truth and will not succumb to the spamming of "fake news" such as this (and yes "ppl" should be blocked for posting things like this).

What started as an interesting story about a particularly nice sized meteor sighting has morphed into an embarrassing example of ignorance and it's lust for social media for survival.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Top Ten Paranormal News Stories of 2017

Why this list? Don’t we have enough countdowns? This list helps us remember the stories from the year and helps us remember some of the issues we encountered that might have fooled us or taught us something along the way. It helps us prepare for next year where we will more than likely see many similar stories. As we look back on these stories years from now we may see similar patterns or how some that were high on the list and so promising turned out to be nothing at all; it’s all about documentation and remembering the past as it happened.

How is this list designed? The Top Ten Paranormal News Stories are put together strictly by my opinion. They are collected from the stories I’ve talked about all year long and are ranked by a few pieces of criteria. First, have they made a positive impact on one area of the paranormal? Many stories I talk about are hoaxes and misinterpretations, but what stories have created an awareness of a paranormal subject or taught the general public something, or better yet has something been learned about our mysterious world? Granted, even hoaxes can teach us something if we know for sure they were a hoax. Some feel all hoaxes harm the paranormal, but I say some educate us on what to look out for as far as a story or types of data that is presented. It’s easy to believe everything, but hard to be skeptical when you want deep down to believe.

Second, how viral was the story? Many stories I talk about are popular on paranormal websites but have not been heard of outside of this arena or where the story took place. A story that is big at a regional level will have more weight than a local story and a global story will be higher than that. Also with this I look at how much it was talked about through social media as well as how long it lasted in the news as a developing story. Lastly, I look at the reality of the story. Meaning, does this story include a real person or it is possibly just a story made up for website hits? I usually do this early on to make sure these are truly newsworthy stories to begin with, but still some stories are a bit questionable in their makeup and are just stories hyped up for the paranormal community.

My first "Top Ten" was back in 2010 when the Paranormal News Insider began to go to a weekly segment in late September of 2010. Prior to that it was a monthly segment that started in September of 2008. It's fun to look back at the stories that seemed so important and how many of these top stories that had much hope turned out to be hoaxes or just no big deal.

10. “Aflockalypse” gets a partial explanation. 

NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, announced in February that it launched a thorough study into the idea that solar storms may be the cause of massive beaching of cetacean animals. I have made mention of these events in the past and the “Aflockalypse” story has trended in the paranormal for many years now. Manmade climate change, SONAR operations of the Navy, potential pole reversals, and many other explanations have been thrown at the wall but none of them can seemingly explain more than a handful of these events. A NASA heliophysicist is teaming up with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, or IFAW, to determine whether a link between solar storms and these mass die offs are related. The study will center on existing data of these mass stranding events as well as prior solar storms. Desray Reeb, a marine biologist at BOEM’s headquarters in Sterling, Virginia, said of the study,

“The results of this study will be informative for researchers, stranding network organizers, resource agencies and regulatory agencies. If we understand the relationship between the two, we may be able to use observations of solar storms as an early warning for potential strandings to occur. This would allow stranding responders in global hotspots, and really around the world, to be better prepared to respond, thus having the opportunity to save more animals.” 
 The team of scientists published their work in August of 2017 in the International Journal of Astrobiology. In their paper they described that they,
“…investigated the possible reasons for this phenomenon based on a series of strandings of 29 male sperm whales in the southern North Sea in early 2016. Whales’ magnetic sense may play an important role in orientation and migration, and strandings may thus be triggered by geomagnetic storms. This approach is supported by the following: (1) disruptions of the Earth's magnetic field by Solar storms can last about 1 day and lead to short-term magnetic latitude changes corresponding to shifts of up to 460 km; (2) many of these disruptions are of a similar magnitude to more permanent geomagnetic anomalies; (3) geomagnetic anomalies in the area north of the North Sea are 50–150 km in diameter; and (4) sperm whales swim about 100 km per day, and may thus be unable to distinguish between these phenomena. Sperm whales spend their early, non-breeding years in lower latitudes, where magnetic disruptions by the sun are weak and thus lack experience of this phenomenon. ‘Naïve’ whales may therefore become disoriented in the southern Norwegian Sea as a result of failing to adopt alternative navigation systems in time and becoming stranded in the shallow North Sea.” 
The results might not be completely conclusive, but it certainly points in the right direction and this may also explain other animal’s strange behavior that has led to many of the “Aflockalypse” stories.

Why this story made the top ten: The “Aflockalypse” was the number five story in 2012 and the number two story in 2011. While we know that these mass animal die off stories are most likely natural or caused by disease, these strandings of whales unfortunately did provide scientists with some solid data that might help save them in the future and this work might also lead to others making similar findings in other animals.

Why this story only number ten: This story was neither very viral nor was it really paranormal, but while it did piggyback on the “Aflockalypse” stories of years gone by this was just a lone story. However, scientific research such as this gets strong consideration and its relationship to the strange die-offs thus helps it crack the top ten.

9. Bigfoot stories (as a collection)

North Dakota Bigfoot Sighting (7 mile trail)
The first big Bigfoot story of the year took place in Ellendale, North Dakota in January. Christopher Bauer says that a friend of his contacted him after she saw a hairy creature outside of her window. Of the encounter Bauer said, “She described him as a huge, hairy, ugly monster and I guess that kind of describes it, if a Sasquatch is looking through the window at you, that's how I'd describe him, too.” Bauer then found prints of what the woman saw and he stated he tracked the animal for seven miles. Bauer claims to be an experienced trapper and he photographed numerous prints and studied the stride length and other sign the creature left. He is convinced this was not a person and seems to know a thing or two about Bigfoot as he says in the WDAY NBC News interview, “It's a Bigfoot, Sasquatch, gigantopithecus, whatever you want to call him, he's a real animal, he's here and I want people to know.” The tracks were 18 inches long by 8 inches wide and the creature had a four foot stride. Bauer said the tracks were deep in the snow so it made it very easy to track.
The Ellendale, North Dakota Bigfoot had an update in the February 7th episode after an anonymous letter was sent to WDAY, the ABC network affiliate from Fargo, North Dakota, stating that the Bigfoot tracks were created not as a hoax but of a prank. A photograph of the letter on WDAY’s website shows that the person wrote,
“I had screwed those wooden feet to an old pair of shoes. I then walked on the wheel tracks on the road to the farm knowing full well traffic would erase any sign of how I approached and left. Once at the farmstead I noticed the lights on in the house and tried to see if anyone was up but the shade was pulled. I decided I was there so I just as well finish, lights or not. I walked around the house trying to leave prints in what little snow that was there. As I was crossing in the front of the house I noticed my friends female friend walk past the window. She happened to look out the window and I froze. Busted I thought she looked directly at me it seemed then quickly turned and went back the way she came and I took off.” 
The person also admitted that they were drunk at the time. The person also sent in a photograph of the shoes that they used with a piece of wood placed on the bottom of high top shoes. Bauer finds the inconsistencies in this version points to this letter being the real hoax. He doesn’t feel this person is being truthful and is trying to dispel the notion that Bigfoot could really be in the area. Bauer states that the tracks could not have been faked with a 4 foot stride for over 7 miles, especially for someone who was admittedly drunk. While the person states they started and stopped at the road Bauer was able to follow the tracks beyond the road for another 7 miles. So, who is telling the truth here? Or, is there really any truth to this story at all?

Bigfoot 911!
This next Bigfoot story is just part one of a two part saga of strangeness. First, a group that calls itself Bigfoot 911 was out in the woods of McDowell County in western North Carolina on Friday, August 4th. John E. Bruner of the group posted on their Facebook page that the group had “hit pay dirt” and detailed the sighting of the legendary creature of Bigfoot. The group had put out glow sticks and had heard something approaching the area when Bruner got his sighting. He said, “The angle of the moon was shining straight down on the road and something big stepped into view. I turned my headlamp on and I saw a large bi-pedal animal covered in hair. It took one step into the woods, (then) I took off running toward where it went into the woods.” At this point Bruner was able to get within about 30 yards of the creature and was able to describe it. He said, “its face was solid black, (with) no hair on it. The hair looked shaggy all over (its body.) It turned and took five steps and was at the bottom of the hill, probably 30 yards. I could see the gluteus maximus flexing with each step.” The group says it tried to track it but saw no more signs of the creature, but later on in the night something had been throwing rocks at them.

Bigfoot in disguise?

They say there are always two sides to every story and the previous story might sound interesting or even a bit fishy due to some of the details, but that’s nothing compared with what supposedly happened from the view of the Bigfoot. Gawain MacGregor, age 36, resides in Minnesota and has a goal of connecting with Sasquatch in a spiritual level. MacGregor has essentially combined his Christian beliefs with shamanistic approaches in an effort to connect to Enkidu, a central figure in the Ancient Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, or Sasquatch. MacGregor was recently visiting eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina last week practicing his rituals. A large part of this includes what he states,
“As a practitioner of Enkiduism, the foremost sacrament I practice is the wearing of hair-covered animal skins and wandering in the forest, the same way Gilgamesh honored him thousands of years ago. While this may seem unusual, the practice actually dates back to long before Gilgamesh, as images of shaman dressed as animals appear as far back as the Neolithic paintings in France's Trois-Frères cave. Even today, there are hundreds of shamanistic traditions around the world that involve dressing in a similar way. To join this ancient lineage, and to honor Enkidu, I sewed animal hides together, fabricating my own ritual garments.” 
MacGregor states that it was him who the Sasquatch 911 group came across in the woods in North Carolina and that it was no coincidence. He also states he moved away from the group when he noticed them but never threw rocks at them. It’s interesting that both groups were in search of Bigfoot using vastly different means. Granted, Bigfoot 911 disagrees with this story. This story is also related to the story that was released on the September 19th episode where a woman was selling a Bigfoot attractant she called Bigfoot Juice which the Bigfoot 911 group says led to their success.

Bigfoot, when pigs fly (Sanger’s reprise)
Fox News reported on a Bigfoot sighting that was first reported back on Thursday, October 12th. This amazing story is centered on a purported account about a farmer near Avocado Lake in California that witnessed five or six Bigfoot running through his ranch in the middle of the night. Jeffrey Gonzalez, who is described as a paranormal expert said about the sighting, “One of them, which was extremely tall, had a pig over its shoulder. And the five scattered and the one with the pig was running so fast it didn’t see an irrigation pipe and it tripped, with the pig flying over.” Gonzalez states that five years ago a woman reported that her sons had seen a Bigfoot in her orchard. A few years later a man reported seeing five Bigfoot in an orchard across the street from his home. This was the same orchard from the prior report. Gonzalez says, “What are the odds of three people, three different families, who don’t know each other, within a radius of 2 to 3 miles, come and tell me what they witness, and it matches up?”

Gonzalez is the leader of the Sanger Paranormal Society. Back in 2011 the group took center stage on one of the worst Bigfoot evidence finding press conferences in history. They claimed that they had, “the best evidence of bigfoot since the Patterson film in 1967.” Their evidence? Bigfoot had left smears on their vehicles and they were pretty sure it wasn’t bears or a person. During the conference they stated that they needed better equipment, assistance, as well as to have their evidence tested. In short, they used the press conference for donations. Strangely, they had been approached by two independent parties to test their DNA findings for free.

Discovering Bigfoot
On a do-it-yourself press release website Todd Standing reminded the cryptid world that he has the proof of Bigfoot beyond anyone else that has ever said they have proof of Bigfoot. The title of his press release is, “A Bigfoot Documentary So Significant Experts Believe It Could Prove in a Court of Law That Sasquatch Exists”. The claim here is that there new documentary titled Discovering Bigfoot proves without question that Bigfoot is real, unfortunately, that’s not how things work. From the preview the show looks to be a cross of Survivorman meets Finding Bigfoot and is probably closer to Survivorman than actually finding Bigfoot. The show statement released describes the show as, “The Discovering Bigfoot documentary, combined with additional eyewitness testimony from individuals from all walks of life, including doctors, engineers and biologists, and DNA evidence and fingerprint analysis, present what researchers are calling undeniable proof that this species exists.”
Standing is so confident that his documentary will validate the existence of Bigfoot he’s taking the Province of British Columbia to court so that they will acknowledge the existence of the creature. How will he do this? Well, he plans to, “present physical, forensic and video evidence, eyewitness testimony from wildlife biologists, wilderness experts, and more in a court of law to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the Sasquatch resides within the forests of British Columbia – and, eventually, Alberta and the U.S.” Standing will also enter his new documentary as evidence which he says contains “crystal clear video evidence” of the creature. If you ask me, this is just a money grab publicity stunt for something beyond this as he will eventually state that this is just a step toward validation.

Peter Caine’s Bigfoot body parts extravaganza 

The latest claim of "undeniable proof of Bigfoot" comes from the YouTube channel of a dog trainer named Peter Caine. In the latest video Caine shows off the head of what he claims is a Bigfoot. What you might not know is that this is not the first video of Bigfoot parts put out by Caine. Back on January 4th of 2017 he put out a video titled, “Bigfoot Severed Ankle and Right Foot unveiled. Only known Physical proof of Sasquatch”. In the video he discussed how his father, Mike Caine, and his friend Morty Lucas were hunting ducks back in the early morning on September 23, 1953.

In this video Peter goes on to say how heavy the foot is numerous times and how real it is and even goes as far as to say that it is probably alien in origin. He then shows how swamp water is coming off of it since the foot is beginning to thaw.
If an object like this was frozen off and on for over 64 years I seriously doubt it would have that much moisture attached to it. Even sealed in paper like he demonstrated we would expect a lot of moisture loss over time which was not apparent in the demonstration. In another video he claims the DNA came back unknown carbon life form. In another video he shows objects which he claims shows that this creature is also a cyborg, half living animal half machine. His proof of this is a chunk of flesh with robotic parts attached to it that he keeps in what he calls a tiny freezer. During the video he pans around the object and you can clearly see a capacitor, battery, and other basic electronics that are obviously created by humans and certainly not in the 1950s.

Other videos show both feet, stomach contents which included a small two headed pig (which he says proves it was alien or inter-dimensional and that the pig is obviously alien) which was swallowed whole by the way – not sure how, the kidneys, Peter eating a piece of Bigfoot flesh, the side effects of eating pieces of Bigfoot which includes his elimination of his erectile dysfunction and high increase in stamina to where 5,000 pushups or sit-ups is nothing, as well as the bigfoot/alien connection, he has an intact baby Bigfoot, and a bunch of other silly videos. IS this real like he continues to claim? More than likely this is all just entertainment.

Why this story made the top ten: Bigfoot generates a lot of stories every year, most of which are hoaxes and laughable stories. 2017 was no different, but between getting a lot of attention in the paranormal as well as in the media there were also some very bold claims made by Todd Standing that have yet to hold up either in court or the court of public opinion. Will his claims be verified? Probably not, but this and the other stories in 2017 help us hold out hope that maybe, just maybe, the big guy could be real.

Why this story is only number nine: Hoaxes, potential sightings, and bold claims don’t add up to much and the top cryptid in the world was lucky to make the top ten this year due to a smaller number of stories than recent years. There honestly wasn’t very much keeping this story from being beaten out by the Loch Ness Monster let alone the lone “Aflockalpse” story.

8. Eclipse/End of the World 

In mid-August South Carolina officials issued a warning of a potential spike in paranormal activity surrounding the upcoming August 21st total solar eclipse. The message was sent in the form of a Tweet by the South Carolina Emergency Management Division and included a map that showed possible lizard man sightings from 1980 to 2001 within the border of where the path of totality of the upcoming total eclipse would occur in South Carolina. This tongue-in-cheek Tweet was in response to the map of Bigfoot sightings that showed the entire map of purported Bigfoot sightings with the path of totality on it.

A crop circle in England caused a lot of theorizing toward the end of August. The crop circle appeared as a series of circles within each other along with a triangular shape coming out of them which also included odd shapes. Some said the shape appeared like a radio tower or as the Death Star from Star Wars shooting a beam and destroying a planet. As the circle was seen just days prior to the total eclipse seen in the United States many people speculated the circles were meant to figuratively reflect the sun and the moon. A video of the crop circle was uploaded to YouTube by the conspiracy theory website Secure Team 10. This website consistently uploads bogus or hoaxed videos and is not a trusted source of information in my opinion. However, it did spread pretty quickly.

More stories popped up about this crop circle which appeared close to England’s Southend Airport. Further thoughts on this crop circle seemed to point to that this was definitely a sign that the planet Niburu or planet X will soon destroy Earth. Earlier this year, amateur stargazer and Christian numerologist David Meade predicted Niburu would appear in the skies on September 23, 2017. He said that the planet would then crash into Earth or at least get extremely close. All of this speculation is based on numerology and guessing using the number 33. 33 days after August 21st is September 23rd. 

The funny thing is many people were claiming to be able to photograph Niburu when taking pictures of the sun. The purported planet is claimed to look bright just like the sun, or in reality just like a lens flare which is what most of these people are seeing. If the planet were getting closer we would see it much more at night that we would during the day especially away from the sun. Photographs of a purported second sun or the supposed Niburu began to pop up quite a bit on social media although are misinterpretations of said lens flares or hoaxes.

The End* (*maybe, but probably not)   
September 23rd was predicted to be the last day of Earth, but it wasn’t. A YouTube video which has almost 2.9 million views and over a dozen videos that have copied the message spread the message of the impending doom that never took place. The description of the video claimed that the date was merely a sign and the Earth will not end on September 23rd and this might not be the day of the Rapture or it might be. The description says, “NOTE TO ALL SCOFFERS: This is JUST A SIGN.  The rapture might not happen on this exact day.  Could be this week, next week, or months from now, but we are getting CLOSE.  Scoff at your own risk.  And for the record, the world won't end for at least 1,000 years.” What a disappointment. This video essentially states that a combination of stars that occurred over Israel and Jerusalem during the day was a sign that all of this was about to happen. Christian conspiracy theorist David Meade also agreed that September 23rd was an important date for the Earth. He stated that the fictional planet Niburu will arrive and bring the end of days. He also said that astronomical models demonstrated that this sign has never occurred in human history. 

Granted, simple science debunked this notion. This whole thing started back in 2011 by William Tapley who shared a YouTube video on this same subject using Stellarium software, the same software used to prove this was not true.
NASA has predicted that the Earth will plunge into darkness for 15 days starting on November 15th. This latest hoax was a piggyback to the earlier claims going back to at least 2011 when it was suggested that Comet Elenin would block out sunlight to Earth, which was not possible. In 2012 it was also suggested that planetary alignments were said to cause great blackouts all over the world. That obviously never happened. The same claim has been made year after year with the basis for the event changing slightly every year from severe solar storms to cosmic events happening from other solar systems hitting our sun. 

According to the website NASA has never made such an announcement and there is no cause for concern behind any of the claims made. No, NASA has never made any type of announcement concerning any type of catastrophic event and a few videos show footage of scientists making some claims, but the footage is used from other interviews and are put up in such a way to suggest that they support this claim when they are discussing completely different topics. While it’s alluring to think that there are secrets being held from us to think some YouTube channel full of advertisements and fake stories would be the only source of truth is just out of this world.

The headline said it all; from the Washington Post, “Please stop annoying this NASA scientist with your ridiculous Planet X doomsday theories”. A short video from NASA senior scientist Dr. David Morrison back in 2011 is at the top of the article and it starts out with him taking a deep breath before telling the tale of a 12 year old girl who is frightened because she hears that the planet Niburu is headed toward Earth. Morrison states matter of factly that Niburu does not exist and that even the designation of Planet X is just a generic term to cover a potential planet that has not yet been proven to exist. 

The video was made in reaction to the dozens of concerned emails to NASA and they finally decided they needed to respond to the misinformation. Morrison stated he received very few inquiries into Niburu back in 2008 but lately things have gotten a bit annoying. Morrison stated, “I now receive at least one question per day, ranging from anguished (‘I can’t sleep; I am really scared; I don’t want to die’) to the abusive (‘Why are you lying; you are putting my family at risk; if NASA denies it then it must be true.’).” The whole Niburu discussion and belief began back in 1995 after Nancy Lieder, founder of the website ZetaTalk, claimed that extraterrestrials from the Zeta Reticuli star system had warned her of an impending collision. Since then the Earth was predicted to collide with Niburu in 2003, 2012, then on September of 2017, October 15th of 2017, and again on November 19th, but none of this happened. Why? Because this planet does not exist and if it were on a collision course we wouldn’t need scientists to tell us because we would see it coming in the night sky for months before it even got close.

Why this story made the top ten: While the eclipse wasn’t a major story until a couple of weeks before it happened it fizzled out quickly to all of the political stories that dominated the news yet for just a couple of days it was the biggest story in the world. The Niburu stories and doomsday predictions flowed constantly through all areas of the paranormal despite relying on misinformation and a misunderstanding of actual science. Scary things tend to get people’s attention and these stories, while hopefully obviously not true, got many to wonder whether they might be accurate. NASA’s reaction in mid-November was a great way to close out this story.

Why this story was only number eight: Despite these claims the world is still spinning. Despite the tracking gained by some of those involved in these conspiracy theories the claims have not held up from public speculation and good old common sense. Despite gripping some with fear and concern they obviously never generated results. Even if it were to come true this story would never have a way to be number one since I wouldn’t be able to report it!

7. Flat Earther’s 

Professional basketball player Kyrie Irving has announced that the Earth is flat and he knows it. The Cleveland Cavaliers point guard’s statement came during a radio show in late February where the hosts began asking him about extraterrestrials and conspiracy theories.

During the Road Trippin' with RJ & Channing podcast Kyrie proclaimed, “This is not even a conspiracy theory, the Earth is flat, the Earth is flat.” He blames the fact that we are spoon-fed knowledge and that history is altered at times and how are we supposed to take what we are told as truth? Many claim that photographs of the Earth are altered or even created as hoaxes. Draymond Green of the Cavalier’s rivals Golden State Warriors stated, “But how do you know that picture is telling the truth? I can make a round picture with my iPhone, on a panoramic camera, make it look round. So, I don't know.” Physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says laughingly of this movement, "This is a deep failure of our educational system."
One month later Kyrie Irving made his position clear once again and made another appearance on the Road Trippin’ Podcast with Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye where this whole mess started to proclaim he does indeed think the Earth is flat. Now, former NBA player Shaquille O’Neil came forward on his podcast to declare that he agrees with Kyrie Irving that the Earth is definitely flat! As only Shaq could do he described his thoughts by saying, 
“It’s true. The Earth is flat. The Earth is flat. Yes, it is. Listen, there are three ways to manipulate the mind — what you read, what you see and what you hear. In school, first thing they teach us is, ‘Oh, Columbus discovered America,’ but when he got there, there were some fair-skinned people with the long hair smoking on the peace pipes. So, what does that tell you? Columbus didn’t discover America. So, listen, I drive from coast to coast, and this s*** is flat to me. I’m just saying. I drive from Florida to California all the time, and it’s flat to me. I do not go up and down at a 360-degree angle, and all that stuff about gravity, have you looked outside Atlanta lately and seen all these buildings? You mean to tell me that China is under us? China is under us? It’s not. The world is flat.” 
The rapper B.o.B. has started a GoFundMe campaign in September to help prove that the Earth is indeed flat. He plans on purchasing multiple weather balloons and satellites to go into space and take pictures looking for the curve. The project started on September 21st and aims to collect one million dollars. Initially, he was seeking $200,000 but as soon as this began to be covered by the media and he realized his goals would actually take more money the figure suddenly skyrocketed. Interestingly, some seem to support the flat Earth hypothesis while others offer their money because of other reasons. One of the first donations was from Daniel Ferguson who supports the cause by saying, “Here's $5 to prove yourself wrong.” There were mostly people trying to educate poor B.o.B. but some were in his corner. In the end the campaign raised $6,862 of the $1 million goal most of which came from non-believers in the flat Earth.

The 2017 Flat Earth International Conference (FEIC) was held in Raleigh, North Carolina on November 9th and 10th. The conference had topics such as, "NASA and Other Space Lies," "Flat Earth with the Scientific Method," "Waking Up to Mainstream Science Lies" and "Testing the Globe." The event organizer, Kryptoz Media's Robbie Davidson, who is a Christian creationist, stated that over 500 people attended the conference. You might want to put November 15th and 16th, 2018 on your calendar for next year as this is the date for the next annual Flat Earth International Conference which will be held in Denver, Colorado. You might want to bring your own soda because I heard at the first one it was pretty flat.

Why this story made the top ten: This subject received a lot of attention this year for no good reason. The viral nature and subsequent debate in the media and social media made this an entertaining story that popped up more times than it should have during the year with a variety of people hopping on board the flat Earth train.

Why this story only made number seven: I think it’s safe to say that the Earth is not flat and unless this movement had some serious data to back up their opinions and beliefs this story might take a step forward, but this one for lack of more exciting and valuable stories to the paranormal was almost pushed off the edge of the Earth.

6. Chicago Phantom
It all started on the night of April 7th when a man encountered a large 7 foot tall man with giant wings and glowing red eyes while walking his dog near Oz Park in Chicago. A second incident occurred on April 15th at 2 AM near the Chicago International Produce Market which is about 5 and a half miles south west of Oz Park, as the owl flies. This story actually began back in 2011 with a sighting on August 22nd with two more sightings happening that year. There were no more reports to anyone’s knowledge until these in April. Subsequent reports during the year provided sightings that dated back to as early as February in 2017 of sightings and while the total reached 56 sightings, including the three in 2011, this was trimmed back from at least 57 total sightings and all of this was closely covered by Lon Strickler of Phantoms and Monsters.

Was this the return of the Mothman? Were these a bunch of misidentifications of bats and owls? Was this all a giant and extremely elaborate hoax? I’d say none on the above or more appropriately more than likely a combination of the latter two possibilities. While I doubt Lon Strickler or Manuel Navarrette of UFO Clearninghouse was a part of a hoax it’s possible that a few people started this and others jumped in while a few sightings may have been made by mistaken identity or fear. Either way, there are still no answers to what may truly have been seen over the skies in 2017 over Chicago. The toughest part about there being so many witnesses and so many case files is that there is a startling and complete lack of evidence in any of these sightings.

A purported police report supposedly filed by a witness did not exist and despite happening in areas with potentially high concentrations of people relatively few came forward. No photographs turned up with street cameras or any other reports by aircraft. The local media didn’t seem to take the story very seriously and reacted to the story as it was covered by Phantoms and instead of it bubbling as a local ongoing story. This could have easily been the biggest story of the year, but without anything solid and the witness statements being too perfect and many very outlandish with details that were many times incorrect such as weather we are left with a mystery within a mystery. We should not view these as fifty plus cases that together prove there was a Mothman-like creature flying over Chicago. I’m not trying to discredit the hard work done by Lon or Manuel, but there are so many other forces at work here and having a pretty much live paranormal blog with heavy publicity can backfire at times. Will we ever know for sure what happened in the skies of 2017? Probably not. The good thing about these sightings is that it helped spawn at least two books, one being from Lon Strickler titled, “MothmanDynasty: Chicago’s Winged Humanoids”, there is also one from Loren Coleman titled, “Mothman Evil Incarnate: The Unauthorized Companion to the MothmanProphecies” which comes out on December 15th and the 50th anniversary of the collapse of the Silver Bridge.  Again, read more about this at Phantom and and check out Lon Strickler's map of the sightings.
Why this story made the top ten: This was one of the most captivating and frustrating stories of the year and was definitely the one that I talked about the most as it was mentioned in at least 20 episodes. This story had so many elements that deemed this worthwhile of potentially the greatest story I have covered since 2008.

Why this story was only number six: A complete lack of verifiable evidence despite a large number of purported witnesses. A police report that was nonexistent and some other information from my own work based on my limited view of the case information led me to cast some serious doubt on this story despite the hope that this could be true. While I seriously doubt Lon or anyone else involved in this story were behind a hoax or creation of this story I’m not entirely sure that many of these reports were fueled by deception no matter how genuine they might seem. Sadly, we’ll probably never know the reality behind the story as a whole.

5. Thylacine 
The thylacine was a fairly popular news story last year although the stories and accounts of sightings failed to crack the Top Ten Paranormal News Stories of 2016 and the thylacine has never made the top ten ever. This year a mix of stories finally helped push the most famous Australian cryptid (sorry, Yowie) deep into the countdown.

It started back in mid-January when a woman came forward with video she took back in September of 2015 of what she feels is definitive proof that the thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, is not extinct. She filmed the video at 8:45 AM on that September morning as she sat and watched kangaroos on her property when the strange animal captured her attention. Many people feel that the shaky video is just a fox or other explainable animal. The woman stated on her YouTube video, “No it was not a dog, cat, fox or whatever, it was something else. It had a large head with pointy ears, it sort of had an arched back, a bum like a kangaroo's and a long skinny stiff tail and it had bright orangey brown fur.” As for the shaky video she admitted it wasn’t that great and that is was done on her cell phone. She said, “I was shaken and excited and filled with all kinds of feelings when I was doing this because I just wanted get it on camera no matter what.” The video was filmed in Burpengary, Queensland, Australia, just north of Brisbane on the eastern coast of the continent. 

The Thylacine Awareness Group made a comeback in 2017. Last year we covered a couple of stories about the group that has been trying to bring awareness to the fact that many people in Australia are seeing thylacines, or the Tasmanian tiger, on the loose. The Thylacine Awareness Group set up cameras in a remote area near Perth, Australia in Western Australia. Neil Waters, the founder of the Thylacine Awareness Group, feels that these sightings are due to a potential sub-species of thylacines that have managed to survive the centuries and now thrive in the outback. Waters said, “We are saying that there quite possibly is due to the plethora of sightings in many key areas of the mainland and similarities of what people are reporting.” Waters also feels a painting by Robert Dale in 1834 titled Panoramic View of King George's Sound is proof since it shows a number of thylacine which state that this means the creature might have been around back then. 

Scientists who scanned preserved brains of thylacines with imaging techniques have come to the conclusion that the Tasmanian tiger or thylacine was a predator and not a scavenger. The Tasmanian devil is a known scavenger although it is a skilled hunter it is opportunistic, but it appears that through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) it is now known that the thylacine were once top predators. In order to conduct the study, scientists were granted access to two of the four remaining brains of the thylacine. The 3 dimensional brain scans of the thylacine and Tasmanian devil have become part of a new project called Brain Ark, which is a digital archive of 3 dimensional brain structures of the Earth’s megafauna. The Brain Ark project will help create digital reconstructions of brains to help solve many riddles about animals and their brain structures. The thylacine was once the largest carnivorous marsupials’ native to Tasmania, but this designation has since been passed on to the Tasmanian devil. However, the Tasmanian devil has been severely reduced in numbers since the 1990s due to Devil facial tumor disease, which is an aggressive non-viral transmissible parasitic cancer. 70% of the population has been lost since 1996 and is not showing any signs of slowing. The Tasmanian devil was declared endangered in 2008.

In March there was another sighting from a former tourism operator who recently stepped forward to share his story. Unfortunately, his story comes from 1983 where he was camping on Cape York in Queensland, Australia. It’s an area of remote forest and while camping Brian Hobbs witnessed two adults and two pups in which he described, “They were dog-shaped — I had a shepherd with me so I certainly know what dogs are about — and in the spotlight I could see they were tan in colour and they had stripes on their sides. These animals, I've never seen anything like them before in my life.” He was able to get quite close to the animals and he stated that they paid another visit to their camp before he left the area. 

Dr. Sandra Abell from James Cook University will be leading a field survey in the Cape York Peninsula area of Far North Queensland in Australia. Dr. Abell very recently found only the second surviving population of northern bettongs, a small marsupial, through the use of over a hundred sensor cameras. These cameras took over 100,000 pictures when analyzed showed signs of the northern bettongs. The team is only bringing 50 cameras that will be near bait stations in their search for a thylacine. This is probably because the thylacine is much larger than the northern bettong and it will also cut down on the amount of data the team will have to sift through. This attempt is based on a couple of case reports including the one from 1983 that occurred in that area.

So, what are the odds that the thylacine is still alive? Would you believe one in 1.6 trillion? That’s the number that Colin Carlson of the University of California has come up with using mathematical modelling. Using a variety of variables Carlson calculates that the thylacine might have been able to have survived until the 1950s, but that is an optimistic prediction. Using an alternative model with viewing the thylacine as nocturnal and only living in remote locations as well as a lot of other data the latest possible extinction date is 1983. Good thing mathematicians are not the ones out there in the wild looking for these creatures. 

Chris Rehberg, a photographer and amateur naturalist with a deep interest in the Tasmanian tiger from Sydney, Australia stumbled upon something that might help in the search for the thylacine. Apparently, samples of thylacine hairs were placed into an envelope in the 1850s and placed into a cabinet with microscope slides. Possibly, there hairs were meant to be processed into slides. The collection of the entire cabinet was recently purchased by an antique dealer who discovered the thylacine hairs who then decided to sell those separately. This is where Chris stepped in and bought the hairs. Chris was very careful to research the dealer to be sure that this was not a hoax and was convinced by the dealer’s background and knowledge that this was a genuine find. 

Chris intends to add to the dated research on thylacine hairs that includes drawings that were made in the 1950s as well as grainy black and white photos from research in 1985 to study these hairs and provide detailed high resolution photographs of them. Taking a comprehensive look at the hair structure and documenting it through these high resolution photographs he intends to make this work available to professionals and amateurs alike in the effort to provide solid samples of thylacine hair to compare potential new finds to. I wasn’t aware that hair samples were lacking for the thylacine, but from Rehberg’s research shows there isn’t much to go on so this find will provide a resource sample which could potentially help identify or prove false any hair samples found during any research findings of sightings of the thylacine. With this work under way this can eventually thwart a potential would-be hoaxer from doing so, but also it could provide a positive identification in case someone actually does produce the real deal. 

I am very happy to announce that when the deadline hit on Saturday the project was fully funded and raised just over $1,800. I received the email on Saturday and made the announcement during my presentation at the PA Bigfoot Camping Adventure on Sunday, May 7th. There were just 26 people that donated money to this project and I am proud to say I was one of them.

A farmer purported caught a thylacine on a game camera and a video was uploaded to YouTube in early June. However, sharp eyed people noted that the image matched that of a known thylacine photograph. Despite a second photograph surfacing that no one could match the account was labeled as a hoaxer. As discovered by the website Where Light Meets the cover photo used for the channel could be saved by right clicking it. When the file popped up to be saved the preexisting file name was “thyla hoax channel pic”. Whoops.

A big story in the cryptozoology field in early July centered on a video uploaded to YouTube on July 5th. The video was shot by school teacher and author Paul Day of an Australian sunrise when a four legged creature ran across the view. In the video Paul poses the question of if viewers think this was the long lost thylacine as it is titled, “Could This be a Tasmanian Tiger”, but he stated that initially he thought it was a fox or a dog and despite this feeling that he is leaning toward the thylacince explanation he states he’s not sure either way. He had been shooting the sunrise near a farm near the city of Moonta on Yorke Peninsula in South Australia with time lapse photography. However, when he saw the creature moving toward the scene he put the camera in regular video mode and zoomed in slightly hoping to get a silhouette of the animal as it went by the sunrise. There are essentially two sides of the fence on this video. On one side people are absolutely convinced this is genuine footage of a thylacine. On the other side of the fence people are claiming this is more than likely a dog or dingo with an injured pelvis or rear leg that makes it appear to hop or move its hindquarters in an odd way that some feel suggest it is the long lost marsupial. There are even some that are speculating that this is CGI and thus a hoax. To this accusation Paul said on his YouTube comments, “Oh it's real alright. A few people have claimed it's fake, but I stake my reputation for producing original content on it being absolutely legit footage.” Sadly, we do not have footage of a galloping thylacine to compare this footage to. 

Why this story made the top ten: A lot of attention and discussion into the possibility of the thylacine still being alive somewhere in Australia or Tasmania hit the paranormal news this year. Despite plenty of news in year’s past 2017 showed more than hoaxed photographs and videos (although there were enough of them) as there was also some scientific attention placed on these purportedly extinct carnivorous marsupials. The Brain Ark project, photographic survey, and Chris Rehberg’s microscopic hair baseline sampling brought some advancement of this lost creature as well as the hope that one day it will be rediscovered.  

Why this story is only number five: Despite a trio of stories that moved the thylacine into a potential find a majority of the focus this year on the thylacine focused on the hoaxed and misidentification filled photographs and videos that still fail to prove the creature still exists.

4. Amelia Earhart
The search is underway once again for Amelia Earhart. Well, not for her exactly as she would be 119 years old with a birthday on July 24th. Earhart disappeared on the morning of July 2, 1937 at age 39, and despite a search of over 150,000 square miles over 17 days neither her, her navigator Fred Noonan, nor their Lockheed Electra 10E that they were attempting to circumnavigate the world in was ever found. Earhart was declared dead in absentia on January 9, 1939. Search efforts were continued by her husband George Putnam and numerous theories including conspiracy theories have popped up about the disappearance of the two aviators. 

At nearly the 80th anniversary of the disappearance of the airplane an expedition organized by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) set sail on Saturday for one more search for Earhart with some special detectives onboard. The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery has already made 12 expeditions in search of Earhart, but this one includes four border collies named Berkeley, Piper, Marcy, and Kayle, who are human remains detection dogs. 
According to the article on National Geographic, which is sponsoring the expedition, these types of dogs have nosed out burial sites as deep as nine feet and as old as 1,500 years. Although the dogs will have a tremendous journey as well as have to deal with huge coconut crabs on Nikumaroro Island where Earhart is rumored to have ended up, it’s thought that this is the best chance to ever find proof of Earhart and Noonan. Back in 1940 it is purported that 13 bones were discovered and shipped to Fiji, however, those bones are now lost. Tom King, the senior archeologist for the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery stated about those bones, “There’s real potential for there to be more bones there. There are 193 bones unaccounted for.” 193 plus 13 equal 206 which is the number of bones in a human body, problem is that Earhart was not alone so that would actually be another 399 bones unaccounted for, right? Yes and no, as Earhart has living ancestors to use as a potential DNA match if her bones are discovered, Noonan does not -so his bones are not going to help much. 
The dogs did discover an area near a tree that indicated they found the presence of bone materials. Archaeologists dug up the site, but were unable to find bone fragments. They are still collecting soil samples for analysis in hopes of not only validating this hypothesis, but finally bringing a conclusion on one of the most mysterious disappearances of the 20th century. 

Another hypothesis that was discussed in detail on Sunday, July 9th on the History Channel during a special called “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence” is that Earhart and Noonan died in Japanese custody after crash landing in the Marshall Islands. During the week a photograph began circulating essentially as a teaser for the episode that purportedly showed Earhart sitting near a dock looking toward a ship that appears to be towing a plane on a barge with Noonan purportedly standing nearby. In this theory it is thought that they landed in the Marshall Islands and were subsequently arrested as spies and ultimately died in custody. Many people think that this last scenario would be the least likely despite this photograph and those who say it appears to be the real deal. The photograph is the center piece of the History Channel episode stating that it is the most significant piece of evidence ever discovered about the Earhart disappearance. They initially paint the picture that the photograph and story of Earhart being captured by the Japanese was a governmental cover-up due to the fact that they were able to crack the codes being used in communication and they did not want this information to get out. 

Other things they used were that Caucasians were not allowed in the Marshall Islands just prior to World War II and that the Marshall Islands natives know the story of Earhart crashing and even have a stamp to commemorate the occurrence. In actuality, the stamps were created in 1987 for the 50th anniversary of the flight based on information from a 1983 book by Vincent V. Loomis titled, “Amelia Earhart: The Final Story.” From there they state that she was taken to Saipan and imprisoned before being executed. This information has also been disputed even by those who support the Japanese capture hypothesis.

The History Channel show painted a pretty convincing feeling of an investigation that found piece after piece of evidence, but in reality all of the pieces were there already and they just put everything together with a story and being on location in the areas to make it more convincing. Was there really a cover-up and conspiracy over Earhart’s capture and ultimate death? We should also remember that there are similar stories that people saw airplane wreckage on Nikumaroro Island as well and there are also pieces of purported evidence that people feel strongly that this is the answer to Earhart and Noonan’s fate. We should also remember that alien abduction, vanishing into the Pacific Island’s version of the Bermuda Triangle, Earhart and Noonan being spies for the U.S. where the crash was their cover-up to go into hiding, one hypothesis that gained a lot of attention in the early 1980s was that Earhart was alive and living in New Jersey, and a variety of other hypotheses have been presented over the years by various “experts”. In reality, the most probably conclusion is that Earhart ditched the airplane in the Pacific Ocean and the two more than likely drown especially since no tangible evidence has been found that suggests that any hypothesis is better than another. It’s romantic to think that they might have survived, but with way more ocean than land it is a rational scenario that has the most probability of being the answer.
But what about that great piece of evidence? Well, a Japanese military history buff named Kota Yamano quickly researched the photograph that was at the center of the History Channel documentary and found that it was, in fact, misleading.  The blogger discovered that the photo that is purportedly of Earhart and Fred Noonan was actually published in 1935 in a Japanese travel book. Yes, two years prior to the disappearance of Earhart and her navigator. Spokesperson Kirby Dixon said on behalf of the History Channel, “Ultimately historical accuracy is most important to us and our viewers.” Well, you might have done a little more research on the photograph before saying in a matter of fact way that it was Earhart and Noonan. The History Channel says that it is aware of this new information and is investigating this new claim. Replays of the highly touted episode have suddenly been pulled from the channel.

Why this story made the top ten: The 80th anniversary of the disappearance of Amelia Earhart did not disappoint. Bone sniffing dogs and a History Channel search for the truth which ended in a big letdown actually continued to keep this mystery even more mysterious. 

Why this story is number four:  The mystery is still a mystery. Despite the attempts to uncover new evidence the search for Earhart is still the same as it ever was. Despite a few stories carrying this topic into the news it fizzled out as quickly as it had become a hot topic and we’re once again left for the next “big find” in this case.

3. WOW! Signal study findings reveal
Notes on the margin of a copy of the Wow! Signal
paper by Jerry Ehman at the Perkins Observatory
On February 2nd, 2017, Professor Antonio Paris announced that the Wow! Signal experiment was officially concluded and that the 16 page paper was submitted to the Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences for peer-review. The Wow! Signal experiment was the number two story of 2016 only being beaten out by a famous snake in Maine that no one is sure they even saw. This experiment might seem like a footnote to some, but it marked the end of what was long considered the greatest potential piece of evidence of intelligent life in outer space.  

When Antonio Paris proposed his hypothesis that the Wow! signal of 1977 was caused by a comet there were quite a few people that laughed at the thought. The Wow signal was very controversial because many felt this was contact from intelligent extraterrestrials although beyond the confusing signal we were left with nothing else, no repeated signal, and no logical solution to what the source might have been. Now that the dust has settled on Paris claiming he has solved the near 40 year mystery the controversy is again in full swing.  There are a few issues with the study that Paris conducted, according to other researchers. Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queens University Belfast whose specialty is comets, stated that comet 266/P Christensen is a quiet comet even when it’s closest to the sun yet when Paris took his readings it was twice as far away or over 4 astronomical units away from the sun. An astronomical unit, for those who are unaware, is 93 million miles or roughly the distance from the Earth to the sun. It’s just a better way to defined the greater distances encountered in space as compared to using the same units we use on Earth. Fitzsimmons also points out that a 1420MHz emission has never been detected from a comet before and therefore concludes that Paris’ conclusions are “rubbish”. Other astronomers and researchers agree that these measurements are questionable. Paris has answered these claims by saying, “Astronomers have not detected hydrogen emission from comets because there has not been much research specifically on this subject.” He says, “While there have been a handful of studies, I suspect we are the first to build a ten-metre telescope to specifically look at this type of Solar System body.” 

Another issue with comet 266/P Christensen is that it would have only been visible to the Big Ear Radio Observatory that captured the Wow signal back in 1977 55 minutes before the Wow signal was detected. There is another issue with the feed horns that collected the data from the Big Ear Radio Observatory. The Wow signal was only detected by one of the two horns used to collect the sound and there would have been a 70 second gap between the horns as the sky rotated overhead. The only thing that could have happened is that the signal turned itself on or off or there was a malfunction of some sort that was never detected. Paris admits that he has no answer for the feed horn issue but thinks it was a technical fault of the telescope. However, Bob Dixon, who was the director of the SETI program, told the magazine Astronomy Now, “Our telescope was working perfectly normally at the time and other radio astronomical objects on the same day were observed in both beams [into both horns].” Despite these three issues working against him Paris feels confident that his work will stick. He plans on continuing his work with providing an explanation of why we would detect such strong neutral hydrogen emissions from a comet like one as inactive as 266/P Christensen hopefully in 2018. No one ever said science was perfect or easy. 

There is also a Google Document that was sent to Paris via Twitter which was started by Chris Lintott who is a Professor of Astrophysics in the Department of Physics at Oxford University and this Google doc also includes questions from other Twitter astronomers. There are some really thorough questions about radio astronomy, comets, the experiment, as well as the paper that Paris has vowed to answer which will put things in a nice perspective.

Why this story made the top ten: The Wow! Signal was the greatest potential piece of evidence of a potential signal from a distant intelligent civilization. Through a scientific experiment it’s now thought that the 40 year old signal might have a natural explanation. Despite the controversy many feel this finally closes the door on one of the greatest astronomical mysteries of all time although many feel this experiment does not explain the signal at all.

Why the story is number three: While the lead up to this experiment landed this story at number two last year many had a feeling this would be the result. Either way, explaining the signal away has not put a dampener on believing that life exists elsewhere intelligent or not and putting this argument out to pasture is a great way for the search to move forward. 

2. Scientists state that ghosts do not exist

A story that was sure to generate some heavy feelings comes to us from the already controversial Large Hadron Collider. In addition to people thinking that CERN can create black holes, will blow up the Earth, and countless other conspiracy theories we also have the strange video of the purported human sacrifice from last year to question just what is really going on there. 

Brian Cox, an Advanced Fellow of particle physics at the University of Manchester, made an appearance on a radio show called The Infinite Monkey Cage to discuss the paranormal and science. Before even starting Cox stirred the pot by saying, “Before we ask the first question, I want to make a statement: We are not here to debate the existence of ghosts because they don't exist.” To clarify his statement he added, “If we want some sort of pattern that carries information about our living cells to persist then we must specify precisely what medium carries that pattern and how it interacts with the matter particles out of which our bodies are made. We must, in other words, invent an extension to the Standard Model of Particle Physics that has escaped detection at the Large Hadron Collider. That's almost inconceivable at the energy scales typical of the particle interactions in our bodies.” 

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson was also on the show and he asked Cox if what he heard was what he heard as he said, “If I understand what you just declared, you just asserted that CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research, disproved the existence of ghosts.” Cox clarified by saying, “I would say if there's some kind of substance that's driving our bodies, making my arms move and legs move, then it must interact with the particles out of which our bodies are made. And seeing as we've made high precision measurements of the ways that particles interact, then my assertion is there can be no such thing as an energy source that's driving our bodies.” 

So, essentially the Large Hadron Collider has not been able to detect any type of energy that would even come close to explaining how consciousness can survive the body so therefore ghosts do not exist. One could easily say absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, but CERN does make a pretty solid argument in regards to evaluating particles and energy. If ghosts do in fact exist they exist outside of the known laws of physics. Wait, we already knew that which is why it is called paranormal in the first place, right? While I marvel at the achievements of the Large Hadron Collider I don’t think they have quite explained everything there is to know at this present time. I’ve often said that ghost researchers should pay attention to the Large Hadron Collider as it will be one of the sources of knowledge and information for this field in the future, but this isn’t exactly what I thought would come out of this.

Ghost groups and enthusiasts all over the world have long been speculating what they think ghosts are and many use the laws of physics to validate their points. Some say the Law of Thermodynamics which states energy cannot be created nor destroyed validates their opinions. However, in this case I must point out that this is just the first law and the second law of thermodynamics states that energy goes from useful forms to less useful forms. For us to go from essentially walking meat sacks to a free floating undetectable sentient being would not be going from useful to less useful at all and its essentially similar to the example you can’t unscramble an egg. 

Dr. Sean Carroll, a cosmologist and physics professor at the California Institute of Technology, has taken the physics debate to the extreme and has pronounced that life after death cannot exist because physics says so. He says, “Claims that some form of consciousness persists after our bodies die and decay into their constituent atoms face one huge, insuperable obstacle: the laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely understood, and there's no way within those laws to allow for the information stored in our brains to persist after we die.” 

Dr. Carroll looks at the Quantum Field Theory which basically states that there is one field for each type of particle. He says that if life were to continue after the death of the body these forces would have been discovered. He says, “If it's really nothing but atoms and the known forces, there is clearly no way for the soul to survive death. Once we get over any reluctance to face reality on this issue, we can get down to the much more interesting questions of how human beings and consciousness really work.” This is essentially the same claim made earlier this year by physicist Brian Cox after he stated there's no room in the Standard Model of Physics for a substance or medium that can carry on our information after death, and yet go undetected in the Large Hadron Collider.

So, does Dr. Carroll see after death studies as a distraction to the search for consciousness? Funny thing is not even physics can explain what is happening with consciousness and despite our ability to reason and come up with theories and hypotheses we still cannot define consciousness other than our ability to be aware or to understand and reason or to be ignorant. We cannot explain consciousness nor can we explain what might happen after death since we do not yet understand how this higher functioning works outside of electrical impulses and reactions to our environment. Despite his claims science does not have all the answers to the world as we know it and physics is a series of theories that are just the best guess until new evidence presents itself. It’s easy to believe without question just as easily as it is to dismiss without introspection. Quote me on that one.

A TED Talk circulated the Internet in late June as ghost investigators thought a video had scientists looking closer to the search for ghosts. TED, which stands for technology, education, and design, is an ongoing series of talks geared toward educating people for various fields. This particular TED talk featured Carrie Poppy, who is the co-host of the skeptical podcast Oh No, Ross and Carrie! Her topic was, “Can Science Reveal The Truth Behind Ghost Stories?” 

In her speech Carrie described how she felt as though she was being watched, had tightness in her chest, and felt other odd things that lead her to believe she had a ghost in her home. She ultimately discovered her experiences mirrored symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. Her hunch was correct as her call to the gas company revealed that she could have been dead within days if not hours had she not contacted them. She goes on to explain our beliefs about ghosts as more of an inner belief as she says, “Because as soon as we have the scientific explanations we know to give up the ghost. We use these things as stopgaps for things we can’t explain. We don’t believe them because of evidence; we believe them because of a lack of evidence.”

Why this story made the top ten: Three really big punches to the belief in ghosts. A couple of jaw shots by scientists point out that science currently has no room for ghosts and that they just do not feel that they exist in the way we popularly think of them. A gut check with the last story demonstrates that we need to be aware of many of the other things that exist out there if we are to truly approach ghost research with a scientific mind.

Why this story was number two: While these might not have been front page news on every paranormal news site they should have been. Belief in ghosts does not make them real and despite those who feel they have interacted with them we are still faced with the fact that science says they do not exist. Two of these stories provide some sound backup to these feelings, but if nothing else this opens the door for others to challenge these ideas. My only hope is that physicists and scientists will always keep the door of possibility of ghosts being a reality slightly ajar so that if advancements or something is ever detected we have not already abandoned the possibility.

1. Exoplanets and the search for life in space

NASA’s teased a big announcement in late February and had headlines that we might have found planets with water or life. The big news of the discovery was that they found 7 planets of Earth’s size and three of them lie in the so-called “goldilocks” zone which means they’re not too hot, not too cold, but just right as far as potential temperature to be able to hold liquid water as determined from the distance from their sun. This does not mean there is life there, but just the potential for liquid water to stay on the surface. 

The Trappist 1 system is 39 light years away, or the Star Wars sounding 12 parsecs away, and contains a star that is barely bigger than our Jupiter. A parsec is a measurement of distance, roughly 3.26 light years of distance. This dwarf star means that the planets are actually much closer to it than we are to the Sun. This presents many issues for the perceived formation of water and subsequent life that everyone is focused on. First, my main observation was the discovery of these planets was made from the observation of shadows created from in front of the star at the Trappist 1 system. This by no means demonstrates that the planets are in a circular rotation around the star, if the orbit is too elliptical it would bring any one of these three too close to the star at a given point in their rotation or even too far away and bring them out of the much smaller goldilocks zone that exists around it. The second major issue is the development of the star itself. Being a cooled star it would have had a much more turbulent youth which more than likely baked these planets and removed any liquid that might have been possible and erased any atmosphere and any life on them. 

We have to remember that these planets are very close to this main star and only take about a week to orbit it unlike our 365 days. Then, of course, we have the whole distance problem. Yes, 39 light years doesn’t sound too far away to travel to but again this is traveling at the speed of light. 39 light years is about 235 trillion miles, that’s 235 followed by 12 zeros! Voyager 1, launched in 1977, is traveling about 10.6 miles per second, which sounds extremely fast but even at this speed it will take over 17,500 years for it to travel one light year. This means to travel to Trappist-1 it would take around 700,000 years – one way. Granted, I have a pretty large list of people I would love to volunteer for that journey. Despite Trappist-1 being a galactic neighbor we’re just not as evolved as we need to be to make a journey there worthwhile.

Back in February scientists announced that they had found 7 exoplanets around a star known as Trappist-1 and three of the four were in the habitable zone. There were a lot of unanswered questions that day and unfortunately more data has come in that suggests that Trappist-1 is not a great star to help the planets harbor life. Trappist-1 is a red dwarf which means the planets around it are far closer than the Earth is to the Sun. The Kepler Space Telescope carried out tests conducted by the Konkoly Observatory that suggests that Trappist-1 flares too frequently and is far too unstable to have a planet within its system that could have life as the atmospheres of the planets would more than likely never recover from the constant bombardment and high intensity solar flares. At least we didn’t pack our bags.

NASA announced to the world yesterday from the Ames Research Center that they have discovered more new exoplanets, 219 of them to be exact, and of these ten are rocky like Earth and are in the goldilocks zone or habitable zone of their particular solar system. This means that they are in a zone where liquid water could form and are neither too hot nor too cold for water for form and stay on the planet. NASA now states that there have been 4,034 planet candidates discovered by the Kepler Space Telescope. Of these candidates 2,335 have been verified as exoplanets. Of these 2,335 roughly 50 have been identified as near Earth size candidates that exist in their system’s habitable zone and of these 50 more than 30 have been verified. So, the addition of ten more planets that are Earth like in the habitable zone is pretty significant, but we will have to wait to see the conditions of these systems as we were excited about the Trappist one announcement only to learn that these planets were in fact too close to their host star.

Back on May 19th researchers for SETI picked up an unusual signal coming from a star known as Ross 128, a red dwarf star located about 11 light-years from Earth. The signal was discovered by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico and on July 14th the telescope was again pointed at Ross 128 where the sound was heard once again. The ten minute signal was observed and seemed to be sporadic. Researchers were doubtful this was alien an alien signal, but they decided to try again to see what this signal might be which is now dubbed the Weird! Signal similar to the Wow signal. On July 16th researchers once again heard the signal coming from Ross 128 and analyzed the data once again.  Abel Méndez, an astrobiologist at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, was one of the researchers and spokesperson for the released information to the public where it was stated that, “The best explanation is that the signals are transmissions from one or more geostationary satellites. This explains why the signals were within the satellite frequencies and only appeared and persisted in Ross 128; the star is close to the celestial equator where many geostationary satellites are placed.” So, a geostationary satellite just over 22,000 miles above the surface of the Earth is the likely culprit. These high orbit satellites are able to stay over a specific spot over the Earth which explains why the signal was detected consistently only in that area of the sky.

Another new exoplanet has been discovered and is just 11 light years from Earth. The exoplanet, dubbed Ross 128 b, orbits around a red dwarf star about every 9.9 days but potentially has a surface temperature close to that of Earth’s which makes it a high candidate for being able to support life. However, astronomers are not yet sure whether Ross 128 b is within the so-called Goldilocks’ zone. The planet Proxima b is the closest planet to Earth that is within this zone and is 4.2 light years away. Ross 128 b is essentially a great backup if Proxima b is discovered to not harbor life on its surface or could potentially provide safe harbor for humans in the distant future.

Another NASA announcement in mid-December focused on the Google artificial intelligence program which sifted through thousands of signals and determined that the solar system known as Kepler 90 has eight potential planets. The announcement was big because it now ties Kepler 90 and our own solar system for having the most known planets orbiting a star.

Why this story is in the top ten: The story may not seem paranormal, but we’re talking about the lead up to potentially finding life on other planets. There was a lot of speculation prior to the Trappist 1 announcement that NASA was going to reveal finding life in outer space, but most of us knew better. Still, while these new exoplanet findings began to balloon back in 2014 this year was a huge year for discovery and while we’re very far from being able to ever reach and research these locations close up these announcements and findings are changing the way people are looking at the potential for life beyond Earth.

Why this story is number one: Of all of the big three topics of the basic paranormal stories (cryptids, ghosts, UFOs/life on other planets) life beyond Earth has been getting some serious consideration by mainstream scientists lately. While UFOs being piloted by aliens around Earth might be laughed at, the topic of the discovery of life outside of Earth is one that seems to be getting closer and closer to actually being a reality. These stories this year were a giant leap towards this possibility although the realization of this possibility is still extremely far away. 2017 was a relatively calm year for paranormal stories as nothing really jumped off the pages, but these exoplanet topics received a lot of attention and speculation and have been the largest scientific conversation all year long.