Tuesday, January 1, 2019

The Top Ten Paranormal News Stories of 2018

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. 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. A few of them are located on this current blog while 2010, 2012, and 2013 are located on my ParaNexus blog.

#10 - Todd Standing

Still of video shot by the Vancouver Sun
Todd Standing has been a Bigfoot researcher for many years and has even teamed up with Survivorman Les Stroud as well as directed his own documentary, Discovering Bigfoot, in 2017 which made it to Netflix. That being said, Standing has been in the center of controversy over the years of his purported evidence as well as many claims he has made that seem as flimsy as a Bigfoot mask.

Standing’s latest escapade involved suing the province of British Columbia over their denial of the existence of the creature as well that this violated his rights and has hindered his work as a Bigfoot researcher. The lawsuit was filed in October of 2017 and essentially accused the provincial government of damaging his livelihood and credibility by the “non-recognition of Sasquatch.” He also challenged the court to allow him to bring a biologist of their choosing into what he called “known Sasquatch habitat” for three months so that he could validate his personal claims.

In January of this year Standing joined forces with Claudia Ackley along with her video of a purported Bigfoot 30 feet up in a tree to sue the state of California. Ackley eventually dropped the lawsuit prior to the March 19th hearing of which Standing blamed his lawyer for abandoning the case.

 Meanwhile, the British Columbia case got a lot of press throughout 2018 although it came to a crashing and predictable end in August. The judge did take a little bit of time to reflect on the case, but British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Ball found no reasonable cause for the lawsuit and said the court had no power to compel the province to conduct scientific investigations of its flora and fauna. The judge also dismissed the claim that Standing's rights were being violated as the province had never placed restrictions on his Bigfoot-related interests. The claim that his rights were being infringed and his way of life being affected was his only wedge to get into the court system, but it was also the easiest thing to shred in the court. The document dismissing the claim said, “non-acknowledgement of the Sasquatch does not in any way prohibit or restrict the plaintiff's ability to express his thoughts, beliefs, and opinions regarding the Sasquatch.”

Standing still plans on attempting the same lawsuit in other parts of Canada and the United States. But first he’ll have to pay the British Columbia province’s legal fees for this first attempt.

Why this story made the top ten: This was the biggest Bigfoot story all year and Standing got a lot of attention between his documentary and the two lawsuits and popped up in the news many times during the year. Unfortunately, his personal crusade did not do much to help the credibility of the possibility of a Bigfoot creature surviving in the forests nor those who attempt to find them.

Why this story is number ten: Despite the headlines in the media Standing got little mention of this story from the paranormal and many in the field did their best to distance themselves from him and this story. Plus, nothing really came from this frivolous lawsuit so far.

#9 - Strange Creature Wanders into Live Shot in Utah

KUTV reporter Morgan Saxton's report interrupted on Live TV
A video created controversy on October 3rd as speculation ran rampant as to what kind of creature wandered into the live shot of a reporter who was doing a onsite report in Utah in the early morning hours. To many, the creature appeared to be a mountain lion that sauntered up to the reporter and nonchalantly walked by her and out of the shot. The creature was the right color, had a long tail with a black tip, and could easily have been a mountain lion in that area. 

 The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources stated that it could not identify the animal from the video which created even more speculation. Some were saying it was a dog while many others said mountain lion; there was some serious emotions at work on social media over this story. KUTV reporter Morgan Saxton initially was sidetracked during her live coverage report stating, “that what you were seeing is actually a dog coming into our live shot.” Although strangely as the animal got closer to her, she didn’t seem as positive as she said, “I think it’s a dog, I’m not sure, umm but ahh, there’s some sort of creature below me,” and she continued on with her report. While she did sound nervous and unsure, she never moved as the animal went by her. The animal did turn, but the reporter was blocking the view of what the creature looked like from the front.

The dog's owner sent in this photo to KUTV
Fellow reporter Chase Thomason fueled the Twitter fire by reporting a few times that he felt a cougar had walked through the live shot. This would not be cougar behavior, but there was no evidence until later when the Utah Division of Wildlife responded to the scene and discovered dog tracks where the creature had been.

It didn’t take too much longer after that for the owner of the dog to post a picture of the dog that had walked in the shot. I love it when a mystery is solved.

Why this story made the top ten: Despite being solved within a day this was a highly viral and highly argued story. Some were on the cougar side some were on the dog side and some were even not convinced that the outcome is right despite the evidence. This story highlights how our thoughts, feelings, and other emotions mean little when it comes to the identification of an animal. The highly contested debate of identification of the creature made this an enjoyable story to watch unfold that has many ties to other viral stories dealing with creatures and even UFOs and ghost phenomenon.

Why this story was number nine: It wasn’t truly paranormal as mountain lions are not unusual sightings in Utah. Despite this the viral and contested nature of this short-lived story helped to power this into the top ten over many other similar types of stories. 

#8 - Wolf-like Creature Shot in Montana

Wolf, wolf hybrid, werewolf, dogman, Bigfoot, Chupacabra?
This story erupted on May 24th when the report of a wolf was shot by a rancher in Denton, Montana back on May 16th went public. The rancher was required by law to report the animal and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks officials showed up to view the animal. However, officials were not convinced this was just a run-of-the-mill wolf which sent the Internet into a frenzy. The photographs of the creature laying in the back of a pickup truck went viral as many people did not think this was a regular wolf.

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks officials stirred the pot even more with the statement, “Something was not right about the animal. It does not look like a wild wolf.” The paws were too small, the front claws seemed too long, teeth too short, and even the ears looked noticeably different than a regular wolf which sparked speculation that this was a wolf-dog hybrid. Meanwhile, in the paranormal world many were speculating that this was a werewolf, dogman, Chupacabra, or even maybe an alien. Even Newsweek stated that some thought this could be a Bigfoot (in disguise, maybe?).

Officials were fantastic with this story which helped keep it from getting too far out of control. They issued a video statement of what was occurring and discussed that they were just as curious about the background of the creature as anyone else and that samples were sent out to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon to be tested.

Ken Goddard, the laboratory director, was even candid about the investigation process as the lab was still processing the DNA. The popular opinion at the time was this was a wolf-dog hybrid and with the lab’s capabilities he said in an interview, “We may not be able to tell the exact hybrid mix, but we should be able to describe that it’s not for example an extinct wolf, or a werewolf, or any of the other interesting possibilities.”

The results were released on July 19th and the verdict was- it was just a regular gray wolf. The lab concluded that it was a female gray wolf that was two to three years old that was 45 inches long and weighed 85 pounds.

Why this story was in the top ten: The speculation ran wild about what this creature might have been. Despite the fairly obvious situation that the worst-case scenario would be a wolf hybrid many went to the extreme of thinking this was some sort of paranormal creature. This story was not just a paranormal story as it gained viral status in many different social (media) circles.

Why this story was number eight: This story felt a lot like the previous story of the unidentified creature seen on live television. The difference here was not just the speculation of the identity of the creature but the mysterious nature behind it as well as the near two months wait to find out what it was. This story also had more of a paranormal or cryptozoological feel to it (even though it shouldn’t have been) than the Utah one.

#7 - UFOs Reported by Pilots

Not really what they saw
The first of three stories in this bundled entry broke on March 26th when reports of two different pilots reported seeing an unidentified flying object in the skies over southern Arizona on February 24th. A pilot of a Learjet reported seeing something strange to Albuquerque Center air traffic control and said of the sighting, “I don’t know what it was. It wasn’t an airplane but it was, the path was going in the opposite direction.”

Air traffic control then contacted an American Airlines jet headed to Dallas from San Francisco and told them to be on the lookout for anything passing over them. The pilot questioned the request, but just moments later they reported seeing the object. The pilot stated to air traffic control, “Something just passed over us, like a, don’t know what it was, but it was at least two, three thousand feet above us, yeah it passed right over the top of us.” The pilot stated the object was above 40,000 feet and had a big RADAR signature. This altitude is much too high for even commercial drones which leaves only weather or other types of balloons. Military exercises or other involvement was pretty much eliminated.

The mystery of what was in the air was never solved and many jumped to some irrational conclusions even the news media that speculated about the UFO since the sighting occurred around 500 miles west of Roswell, New Mexico. Roswell, of course, was home to the famous purported 1947 UFO crash and supposed coverup. 

On Friday, November 9th at 6:47 AM a British Airways pilot operating Flight BA94 from Montreal contacted Shannon Air Traffic control off the southwest coast of Ireland and asked if there were any military activity scheduled to be in the area. Air Traffic Control said no, the air is clear, and the pilot denied their observation. The pilot stated about what she had seen, “It was moving so fast. It appeared on our left-hand side and rapidly veered to the north. We saw a bright light and then it disappeared at a very high speed.” 

A Virgin Airlines pilot of Flight VS76 from Orlando to Manchester also contacted air traffic control and reported, “A meteor or another object making some kind of re-entry. It appears to be multiple objects following the same sort of trajectory. They were very bright from where we were.” Both pilots also reported seeing two bright lights in the sky. The Virgin Airlines pilot also stated that the object flew past his aircraft and then climb away from him from his perspective. Other pilots chimed in including one from a Norwegian Air flight and seemed convinced that this was some sort of meteor, but they all seemed surprised by the incident and the object was described as going about twice the speed of sound or “astronomical” speed (hear the ATC conversation and fast forward to 17 minutes). According to CBS news, the Irish Aviation Authority said these reports will be, “investigated under the normal confidential occurrence investigation process.”

A still taken from the footage recorded by Sandy Laverty
A week later it was reported that dash cam footage of the purported UFO over Ireland had surfaced online. The footage shot by Sandy Laverty shows a bright object moving in the sky and then suddenly breaking into pieces. This is obviously a meteor streaking through the sky and breaking up. 
This story became viral quickly after it was reported that three pilots had simultaneously reported that they saw UFOs in the sky over southwestern Ireland. While many were quick to realize this was probably a meteor sighting there was some inconsistency in the reporting by the pilots that made this sighting a bit confusing.

We should realize that at this time this area was affected by three different meteor shower events; the Orionids, which were active from September 23rd to November 27th, the Northern Taurids, active from October 19th to December 10th, and the Leonids, active from November 5th to November 30th. 

Also, while there were no immediate reports put into the various databases of meteor sightings there were five reports collected by the International Meteor Organization and a trajectory was created from these sightings. While there is a still a bit of confusion by one of the pilots I believe the flash created a bit of misdirection and since most of the other witnesses match the trajectory the one that doesn’t fit must be one that was just misinterpreted.
On November 24th the crew aboard a Boeing 737 reported seeing an unidentified flying object while flying over Baffin Island in Canada. The sighting took place at 8:30 PM local time and was described as a shining light that changed colors from red to green and then to white.

The official report was taken by Transport Canada’s Civil Aviation Daily Occurrence Reporting System, or CADORS. In the report it was noted that the class of investigation was a potential weather balloon, meteor, rocket, CIRVIS/UFO. CIRVIS stands for and refers to the Communications Instructions for Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings. The Communications Instructions for Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings is an Air Force regulation, or AFR 55-88, that was created on May 20, 1968 as part of the Air Force Manual 55-11 Air Force Operational Reporting System. CIRVIS has little to do with UFOs, however, as it’s mainly directed at reports of, “all unidentifiable, suspicious, or hostile air or seaborne traffic which, because of its nature, course, or actions, must be considered a threat to the security of the United States or Canada.”

The sighting was reported immediately to the North American Aerospace Defence Command, or what is usually referred to as NORAD. Obviously, the thought that this might have been a rocket launch toward North America had to be taken into consideration.

Why this story was in the top ten: The Arizona and Ireland stories were highly viral within and outside of the UFO and paranormal communities. Even though the solution was more than likely a meteor for the Ireland sighting there was still the belief held by many, including the mainstream media, that this was a potential UFO of the definition of potential alien-controlled craft. The Arizona and Canada sightings remain unsolved but are more than likely a logical solution.

Why this story was number seven: Despite my opinion of being the most popular UFO story, or collection of stories, for 2018 it didn’t really have the viral strength or story power to go much higher in my countdown.

#6 - Loch Ness Monster

Still of video by Eoin O'Faodhagain (yes, that's as good as it gets)
On March 26th of 2018 Dakota Frandsen, a tourist from Idaho spotted a dark shape in Loch Ness near Urquhart Castle. He estimated the object was about 40 feet long and had the color of a hippopotamus. It was also said that other shapes could be seen in the water and Gary Campbell, who is the Keeper of the Official Register of Sightings at Loch Ness, says that this might have indicated that not only was the Loch Ness Monster present but his or her family might have been as well.

On April 30th 53-year-old Eoin O'Faodhagain from Ireland spotted and filmed what he thought was a 20-foot-long creature in the Loch. The video, taken by cell phone, was almost ten and a half minutes long and showed a creature swimming and moving up and down in the water. Unfortunately, the quality of the video is poor and not much detail can be seen. Despite the lack of clarity the video did make the official register of Loch Ness Monster sightings. 

Eight-year-old Laria Annand was at Loch Ness with her grandmother in late May when the two noticed strange movement in the water. Laria’s grandmother, Marie, grabbed her phone and quickly took some photographs toward the disturbed area of water. Laria then asked to use the phone and shot a short video which shows light reflecting off of small waves that appear to be caused by something disturbing the surface.

Of the experience Marie said, “We sat on the rocks for a few minutes. We were just taking silly pictures of each other and splashing our feet in the water. I just looked up and that's when I spotted the flickering in the water. It looked as though the light was bouncing off something but there were no boats or people and it was something long - very long. I had to do a double take because there was just nothing to explain it. I took a few pictures and then my granddaughter asked if she could take a picture. I didn't realize at the time but that's when she shot the video. It was weird. Really strange. I can't explain it so the only thing I can think is we have seen the Loch Ness Monster.”

Despite the video the sighting did not end up making it into the official Loch Ness Monster sightings register curated by Gary Campbell. While the two stated there were no boats in the area and claimed to see a long dark object the video and photographs only show sunlight reflected from waves which could have been cause by everything from wind to fish, but no concrete signs of a large creature are present.

A close-up of Charlotte Robinson's photograph
Friday, August 17th, around 7 PM 12-year-old Charlotte Robinson and her parents were on holiday to Loch Ness when she saw something about 50 feet from shore and took photographs with her iPhone 7. 

She described her encounter as, “There was something in the water about 50 feet from the shore. I took a photo. It had a neck and head was in the shape of a hook. I just took what I saw. It was black – I just don’t know how far it was out of the water. I’m not good at judging distances. But after about a minute it disappeared and then came back up again in a different place. It was up for less than a minute the second time. I kinda believed in Nessie, but I wanted to see the proof. I always imagined her as having a long neck and flippers. I have seen something but I’m not sure what.” The photograph, despite being what seems like a mile away from the object in the water, was described as one of the best photos in many years of the creature.

Also on Friday, August 17th , 54-year-old Lynn Locke, an elementary school teacher from Ontario, Canada, was visiting family in Glasgow, Scotland, when she encountered what she thinks was the Loch Ness Monster about 50 yards offshore near Urquhart Castle. 

Of the sighting Lynn said, “On our last day we visited Urquhart Castle and went on a cruise on Loch Ness. While we were visiting the castle, I noticed something moving in the water, with trails of bubbles leading up to it. It went under the water a couple of times and reappeared. It seemed strange, and of course I’ve heard of the story of Nessie, so I took a few pictures. This was the first time we all had been to the area around Loch Ness. I believed in Nessie before this, so I was excited when I saw something strange in the water. My family is a bit sceptical about Nessie, but I think this sighting - as well as the other one the same day further south - has made them change their minds a little bit. I do think I saw Nessie - maybe the tail. I’ve seen a stick floating in the water before and that didn’t look like one to me. Of course, I didn’t think I would see anything going to Loch Ness that day, so it was a surprise!"

Lynn’s sighting came at 9:40 AM the same day as Charlotte Robinson’s from the previous story, but just more than nine hours earlier.

Photo by Rick Phillips
Another Loch Ness Monster sighting/picture made the headlines on December 13th. Rick Phillips said, “The previous Wednesday I had heard a strange noise as I was stood by a cafe at the edge of the loch in Fort Augustus. The noise sounded almost metallic, but like something was blowing air - like Darth Vader. I have swum and sailed with whales and dolphins, seen hundreds of seals, and it sounded like nothing I have ever heard. I spun around and saw something grey, just a side of a body and a flipper. Then last Thursday after my tour party went on their cruise I decided to take a walk along the river Oich, mainly to see the old bridge, and was taking a few pictures of the loch and the scenery when I again heard that curious noise. I looked up from my phone and saw a long, straight neck, all completely grey, and a narrow face, which was only about 20ft away and then it turned and disappeared all in a few seconds. I looked down and realized that it was in my picture, so zoomed in and there it was. It actually looks like a giant bird or a peacock in the face, with high ridges above its eyes and what almost looks like a beak. I know dinosaurs came from birds and that many had hard lips, almost like a beak - but this is simply what I saw. It seems to have almost a frill on its neck. All I will say is that, if I was going to fake a Nessie, I would certainly have made it look less like a bird and more like... well, more like what we think Nessie looks like!"

Why this story made the top ten: These stories carried the Loch Ness Monster in the media throughout the entire year. While there was a 21st century record total of 14 sightings of the Loch Ness Monster in the “The Official Loch Ness Monster Sightings Register” these were the most viral.

Why this story was number six: Despite a strong showing by the Loch Ness Monster none of these photographs, videos, or stories really shed any validation toward the creature and did nothing more than keep the legend afloat.

#5 - Marrying a Ghost (tales of necrogamy and spectrophilia) 

Amanda Teague and a painting of Jack; Teague or Sparrow?
This story starts back in mid-January with the rehashed and confusing story of Amanda Teague. The mother of five had met the ghost of an 18th century Haitian pirate named Jack Teague back in 2014. On July 23, 2016, she married the ghost of Jack Teague which she described him as probably looking like the pirate Jack Sparrow.

In 2015, Amanda began to alter herself to appear like the fictional captain Jack Sparrow spending $4,000 British Pounds, or about $5,000 American dollars on tattoos, jewelry, and clothing to become an impersonator. She even legally changed her last name to Sparrow.

In October 2017, Amanda married the ghost of Teague again in international waters to help circumvent the laws although Ireland and the United Kingdom will still not legally recognize the marriage. In articles talking about her marriage Amanda also discusses her sexual relationship with the ghost pirate.

In early August the story of Amethyst Realm broke and kept hovering in the news for months. Realm is a 30-year-old spiritual guidance counselor who confesses that she’s been messing around with ghosts for years and it caused her to have an engagement broken off after he fiance caught her in bed wearing lingerie and telling him she was messing around with a ghost.

Amethyst Realm got plenty of  TV time in 2018
Realm claims she is done with Earth-bound men and has had at least 20 different ghostly lovers in the last 11 years. But she encountered a new lover while on vacation in Australia who followed her home. In this initial batch of articles centered on her This Morning television show appearance Amethyst also reveals that she wants to have a “ghost baby”.
While she is hoping for a real physical baby, she’s not completely sure how she’s going to go about getting pregnant and ultimately delivering a baby. On having a baby, she says, “I hope so. I would hope physical. I've been looking at phantom pregnancies. I believe a phantom pregnancy is a real pregnancy, but you have a phantom inside of you rather than a human baby. The reason we don't carry them to full term is the people who have them don't comprehend it or think it's possible.”

Her exploits popped up a few weeks later rehashing the same details including her personal inclusion into the Mile-High Club that she purportedly entered as she traveled back to the United Kingdom from Australia after initially meeting her latest lover.

A few months later more stories popped up about Amethyst that talked about her recent marriage proposal from her ghostly lover. She said, “There was no going down on one knee — he doesn’t have knees. But for the first time, I heard him speak. I could actually hear his voice and it was beautiful. Deep, sexy and real.” So, ghosts don’t have knees, but they have functioning vocal chords? Amethyst plans on getting married next year so you can plan on hearing more stories in the paranormal news about her and this ever-growing trend of having sexual encounters or marrying ghosts.

Why this story made the top ten: These two stories kept the idea of having a relationship with a ghost in the news for almost half the year. The Amethyst Realm story came and went throughout the fall and became fodder for nearly every single major news outlet. Despite not being a verifiable story its viral power not only thrust these stories into the top ten but nearly halfway up the list.

Why this story was number five: These stories were highly viral and the idea of having physical relationships with ghosts has become a popular conversation piece in the media recently. Despite how heavily popular these two stories were during the year.

#4 - Otago Loch Ness Monster DNA Search

Professor Neil-Gemmell of the University of Otago (left)
The Otago Loch Ness Monster DNA search is a story that first broke in May of 2018 when plans of collecting DNA from the Loch went mainstream. Professor Neil Gemmell of the University of Otago led a group of scientists to collect 259 samples around Loch Ness at varying depths to record the diversity of life within the water.

The goal with this scientific experiment is to collect DNA samples to determine what types of plants, animals, and other organisms that inhabit the loch. The search is geared toward identifying invasive species, searching for new species, as well as cataloging anything that might inhabit the cold Scottish waters, but the use of the Loch Ness Monster got this story front page attention.

Of the project Gemmell commented, “While the prospect of looking for evidence of the Loch Ness monster is the hook to this project, there is an extraordinary amount of new knowledge that we will gain from the work about organisms that inhabit Loch Ness – the UK's largest freshwater body.”

The team hopes to discover new species, but it probably won’t be some type of thought-to-be-extinct plesiosaur type creature but more than likely bacteria or something else small. After the samples were collected in early June article appeared that stated that the team did not encounter the Loch Ness Monster. However, these articles that perpetuated this story explained that the DNA has yet to be disseminated so a lack of visual sighting of the creature has not yet eliminated it from existence.

On July 15th an opinion article in the New Zealand based The Spinoff website challenged the search for the Loch Ness Monster by calling it, “embarrassing and expensive” as Otago University spent a considerable amount of time advertising it. The author also considered Professor Gemmell a not-so-intelligent person for pursuing a mythological creature. A few days later and another journalist fired back explaining that the Loch Ness Monster was just used a hook to get people to read about a typical boring scientific collection experiment. 

Ellen Rykers in her article summed it up nicely by stating, “Connecting science with popular culture, or other things people care about, is smart. Plus, there’s a difference between legit science piggy-backing an urban legend and outright wearing a tinfoil hat.”

Otago University and Professor Neil Gemmell explained the experiment and defended themselves against the angry article. Professor Gemmell’s response was posted onto the amended article and said in part, “Joel MacManus’s opinion piece calls into question the scientific integrity/credibility of my team, many of whom are internationally acclaimed for their research. Quite simply they would not have joined an endeavour that they thought foolish or likely to cause harm to their reputations. This is a science endeavour with exceptional credentials that will document the life in Loch Ness in unprecedented detail. We are dubious that there is a monster, but the global appeal of that legend, has enabled us to the describe the scientific process and a new form of genetic investigation to audiences we have rarely, or never, connected with previously. At its heart our project will deliver fundamental new knowledge. It is this, plus the unparalleled opportunity to communicate this science and the scientific process on which it is based that has brought together an exceptional array of scientists.”

Teams from New Zealand, Australia, Denmark and France are currently breaking down these samples and comparing the results against known species. The results of the experiment should be released sometime in early 2019.

Why this story made the top ten: The study of the water of Loch Ness is important enough, but the fact that this could finally solve the mystery as to whether the Loch Ness Monster exists puts this one on the map. My bet is that even though it will not find evidence of the creature the findings will not damage the culture of belief behind Nessie.

Why this story was number four: This is a story about science and discovery, but while this could determine the “fate” of the Loch Ness Monster the announcement of this experiment will not be revealed until next year. 

#3 - Michigan Meteor Madness!

The mayhem started on Tuesday, January 16th at 8:08 PM eastern time. A meteor, probably a yard or two in diameter, was seen streaking through the sky. A bright flash and sonic boom were seen and felt afterward around the area of Taylor, Michigan. The flash was seen not only in Michigan, but in Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Indiana. There was a little bit of confusion surrounding the event as many thought the flash and boom were caused by a thunderstorm, but where was the rain? Others had felt the ground shake and wondered if an earthquake had happened as seismic activity from the boom registered a 2.0 magnitude earthquake. Still, there were others that thought maybe this was an explosion. 

As per usual when something confusing like this happens there tends to be a little speculation and a little bit of a leap into the irrational. Not long after the initial confusion began to subside and the fact of a probable meteor event began to circulate in the news and social media a series of photographs turned this simple event into a UFO invasion and government conspiracy theory within 20 minutes of the initial entry of the meteor.

A series of three photographs began to circulate of a light in the sky as well as a fire occurring in Taylor, Michigan. Shortly after a video showed close up footage of a fire and the destruction of a garage. Social media went into high alert and rumors of an alien invasion, attack of a missile, people being blocked on Facebook for sharing information, all the way to a building being destroyed by the meteor were flooding social media and confusing everyone.

Stay woke and create hysteria
Another part of the photographs that fueled speculation was that the cold temperatures created what is known as light pillars. The bright light of the fire created a streak of light in two of the photos that went skyward, this gave the impression that a rocket had impacted the area, but the photograph would have had to been taken at that exact moment. The light pillars were merely created from the light and atmospheric conditions. 

The fire was the fuel of the speculation, but officials were quick to address this issue as they were well aware of the situation. Detroit newspapers pointed out that officials stated that leaking fuel and oil from a vehicle was the cause of the fire in the garage in Taylor, Michigan. But it was too late, by the next morning multiple websites were proclaiming a UFO crash, UFO invasion, or at least a meteor strike on the area just southwest of Detroit. It took almost a week later for the truth to circulate through social media to clear up the misinformation train that had derailed the actual truth.

If that wasn’t enough, to add a cherry on top of this story it was reported the following day that a pastor in the area had predicted the meteor event. The prediction was made in a video on December 31, 2017, where Pastor Rick Satterfield said, “I had a dream that a meteor was coming to the Great Lakes and it was gonna hit Michigan. It would cause Ohio and Canada to feel the impact of it.”

I predict this story will make the top ten!
This meteor prediction was not of a doomsday event but of one that would bring positive change to the region. Satterfield, of the non-denominational Christian church named I am Church, has about 200 members. I was highly skeptical of this story until I did watch the video and he did make the prediction. Although the part about a revival in the area caused by the meteor probably didn’t live up to the prediction unless this story attracted some parishioners.

Why this story made the top ten: The Michigan meteor might have faded away but this was the hottest story of the year for a few months and the sheer panic and confusion it created with UFOs and missile attacks rates this as one of the most viral "paranormal" stories of the year.

Why this story was number three: The story had a logical solution which was largely ignored in the days since it was revealed and even confused those who lived in the area. While this was a confusing and far reaching story it wasn’t the most widely covered viral paranormal or strange story in the media.

#2 - Sunspot Observatory Evacuation

September 6th, Sunspot, New Mexico was the location of a strange scene where the Sunspot Solar Observatory, also known as the National Solar Observatory, was swarmed by FBI agents with Blackhawk helicopters purportedly swirling about above. Local police officials were left out in what was actually going on and workers were told they were suspended from the facility until told they would be allowed back into the building.

Tyler Glockner of the YouTube conspiracy theory and hoax video page Secure team 10 went on YouTube to state that the facility was closed due to evidence that a strange object was seen crossing in front of the sun other than the moon. This shocking revelation meant that the government was aware of a gigantic UFO, or apparently an object like the Death Star from Star Wars, was very close to Earth. This, of course, is completely moronic of an assumption since there is more than one solar observatory in the world let alone the United States and none of those were invaded. Plus, why would the footage of this have been leaked if it were a matter of national security? 

Other accusations included a purported solar storm that was headed our way. This story was true, but it was a moderate storm according to officials and passed without any sort of incident as is common. Again, numerous agencies would have been aware of this occurrence and it would make little sense to have evacuated this location. 

Some were assuming that this had something to do with Roswell. While Roswell is just less than 90 miles as the UFO flies and was a nice story back in 1947 there isn’t much going on lately with UFOs and aliens in that area other than the annual festival.

The mystery stemmed from the way FBI agents swarmed the facility and evacuated it without letting anyone else in on what was happening. Otero County Sheriff Benny House told ABC 7, “The FBI is refusing to tell us what's going on. We've got people up there that requested us to standby while they evacuate it, nobody would really elaborate on any of the circumstances as to why. The FBI were up there. What their purpose was nobody will say. For the FBI to get involved that quick and be so secretive about it, there was a lot of stuff going on up there. There was a Blackhawk helicopter, a bunch of people around antennas and work crews on towers but nobody would tell us anything.” 

More speculation into the evacuation included foreign spies. The observatory is used to view the sun but also provides a nice view of New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin, which includes two military bases, the White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base. This was a more rational conclusion for some since an alien invasion being seen from one tiny solar observatory is more fit for a streaming service ready movie. One thing about this hypothesis being wrong is that nearby sits the Apache Point Observatory with an array of telescopes not even a half mile away. It is currently operating as normal and has better tools to spy on anything going on in the basin than a solar telescope. Other guesses and theories included a large amount of mercury that is kept on site might have leaked or attempted to be stolen and potentially weaponized. All of this speculation did not help the lack of facts coming in from those who created this situation.

The Sunspot Solar Observatory is not a top-secret facility as some have also said. The facility was open to the public for tours and led by the scientists on site. Officials who contacted the FBI included Benny House who said he was only told there was a “credible threat”, however House and his deputies observed no threat to the facility. 

James McAteer, a professor at New Mexico State University and director of the Sunspot Solar Observatory consortium stated that the consortium ordered the facility to be vacated and only mentioned a security issue. Kinsey Featherston, a spokeswoman for congressman Stevan Pearce contacted the FBI and was told there was a “ongoing investigation”. The FBI told Featherston to contact the consortium about the issue. Shari Lifson, a spokeswoman for the AURA consortium stated that the group was, “addressing a security issue” and had “decided to temporarily vacate the facility as a precautionary measure.”

So, the evacuation of the site was from AURA, which stands for the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy. AURA is a consortium of 42 U.S. based oversees other facilities other than the National Solar Observatory including the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) which is under construction in Chile, the National Optical Astronomical Observatory (NOAO) in Tucson, Arizona, and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) which is the science operations center for the Hubble Space Telescope and for the James Webb Space Telescope. Suddenly, on Sunday, September 16th a statement was released to the media from AURA which said:
“On September 6th the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) made the decision to temporarily vacate the Sunspot Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico as a precautionary measure while addressing a security issue. The facility closed down in an orderly fashion and is now re-opening. The residents that vacated their homes will be returning to the site, and all employees will return to work this week. AURA has been cooperating with an on-going law enforcement investigation of criminal activity that occurred at Sacramento Peak. During this time, we became concerned that a suspect in the investigation potentially posed a threat to the safety of local staff and residents. For this reason, AURA temporarily vacated the facility and ceased science activities at this location. The decision to vacate was based on the logistical challenges associated with protecting personnel at such a remote location, and the need for expeditious response to the potential threat. AURA determined that moving the small number of on-site staff and residents off the mountain was the most prudent and effective action to ensure their safety. In light of recent developments in the investigation, we have determined there is no risk to staff, and Sunspot Solar Observatory is transitioning back to regular operations as of September 17th. Given the significant amount of publicity the temporary closure has generated, and the consequent expectation of an unusual number of visitors to the site, we are temporarily engaging a security service while the facility returns to a normal working environment. We recognize that the lack of communications while the facility was vacated was concerning and frustrating for some. However, our desire to provide additional information had to be balanced against the risk that, if spread at the time, the news would alert the suspect and impede the law enforcement investigation. That was a risk we could not take.”
Otero County Sheriff Benny House told BuzzFeed News that Sunday, “If there is a threat to local residences and the area they should be filling us in so we can also help take care of that and know what is going on in our community. No one has reached out to us at all and we are not hearing anything but what conspiracy theorists are saying. It's all very weird.”

The facility went back into operation mode on Monday, September 17th but with few concrete answers. A few days later on Thursday those details became a little clearer as the FBI released documents including a search warrant that paints a scarier picture than an alien invasion. Apparently, a janitor at the facility was suspected of downloading and distributing child pornography using the WI-FI of the observatory. The laptop that contained the pornography was discovered by the chief observer at the observatory and a while later the janitor was seen leaving the office where the laptop had been discovered. 

The FBI was not behind the evacuation as explained last week, the AURA consortium opted to get the workers out of the building due to statements made by the janitor. The statements released by the FBI state that the janitor was “feverishly” searching the facility for the laptop and made comments such as, “it was only a matter of time before the facility ‘got hit,’" and that he “believed there was a serial killer in the area, and that he was fearful that the killer might enter the facility and execute someone.” 

Why this story made the top ten: The evacuation and lingering story of the Sunspot Observatory sent everyone into conspiracy theory mode, including the mainstream media. Was this UFOs, terrorism, spies, the end of the world? The speculation of this story went beyond social media and paranormal bloggers into big media all over the world and was definitely the strangest and biggest paranormal mystery of the year.

Why this story was number two: This story was probably the most viral story in a year that really lacked any heavyweight story and probably could have landed at number one had it not been for a story that touched everyone in the paranormal and many that had nothing to do with it. 

#1 - Death of Art Bell (Friday, April 13)

The number four story of the Top Ten Paranormal News Stories of 2013 was the return and departure of Art Bell. Bell returned to the airwaves on September 16, 2013 on SiriusXM satellite radio on his show called Art Bell’s Dark Matter. The show was short lived, however, as technical issues with streaming forced Bell to cancel the show on November 4th. He did have another comeback with his show, Midnight in the Desert, which ran from July 20, 2015, until December 11th when he called it quits for good after trespassing and gunfire on his property made him fear for his and his family’s safety.

Art Bell died on Friday, April 13th, 2018, his death was announced by the Nye County sheriff’s department in Nevada and a press release was issued to the media. George Noory, the host of Coast to Coast that night revealed publicly that Bell had died but despite the news being spread he wanted to be sure it wasn’t just speculation or misinformation. He had a difficult time getting the words out despite not being close to Bell in what was and still is one of the hardest pieces of audio to listen to surrounding Art.

Speculation ran rampant as information surrounding Art’s death seemed secretive and conspiracy theories ran rampant as many paid their respects to the man that paved the path for paranormal radio as it is today. Many paranormal radio shows suspended their format and their guests and talked about Art Bell. 

A community announcement was made via Facebook and Twitter on Friday the 13th and the news quickly spread. While fellow paranormal radio hosts, bloggers, and others in the field offered their shock, condolences, and personal stories the news also seemed to hit movie and music stars as well. Twitter and Facebook became flooded with Art Bell tributes and stories and the media heavily covered the passing of Art Bell. While he had made the paranormal mainstream long before the Internet it was great to see how the media treated him as the flag bearer to the movement of the late 20th and early 21st century of belief in the unknown.

No conspiracy here, although that would have been poetic
Bell had been known to have health issues and was a heavy smoker for several decades. In 2016 he went to hospital with pneumonia and revealed at the time that he suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. Autopsy results on Art Bell were finally disclosed on August 1st which revealed that the combination of prescription drugs had led to an accidental overdose with his prescription medication. Granted, his COPD and hypertension were also risk factors that contributed to his death. Sadly, some still continue to stir conspiracy theory waters surrounding Art's death and autopsy results.

Why this story made the top ten: The passing of Art Bell was a shock to many despite his health woes in the last few years. The amount of tributes and recognition for his breaking the barriers of paranormal radio and belief in the media made this a proud moment despite the sadness behind his loss.

Why this story was number one: This was definitely the number one story in how it affected nearly everyone involved in the paranormal or anyone who had ever heard Coast to Coast hosted by Art Bell. Again, the media did Art well in covering the story and I was amazed at how far this coverage reached from the Washington Post and all major news outlets releasing a story on this as well as covering it on television.

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