Monday, February 8, 2016

A Look Into TV's Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files (Skeptical Inquirer) by SpookyLady InSanDiego

Excerpts from Skeptical Inquirer’s Karen Stollznow:
Billed as the “Mythbusters of the Paranormal,” a title coveted (but undeserved) by every paranormal show, Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files supposedly “revolutionizes paranormal programming by investigating the evidence witnesses post on the Internet every day. Have you ever seen a photo or video online and wondered, ‘Is this real?’ This is the show that will answer that question.”
But does the show answer that question correctly, and truthfully? And is the very question honest? The show examines paranormal claims found online, to determine whether the phenomena captured are, of course, “fact or faked.” As we will see, it seems that the show’s cast and producers may be the ones doing the faking.
The investigative team consists of “experts” who claim to have a background in paranormal research. There is Ben, the former FBI agent; Jael, the journalist; Austin, the “stunt expert”; Chi-Lin, the “photography expert”; Devin, the “tech specialist”; and Bill, the “lead scientist.”
For all of their supposed expertise, the team members’ research methods are dubious. Their initial approach is to recreate anomalous phenomena, quite correctly, but then they proceed to recreate the phenomena badly, or they recreate irrelevant phenomena. They mistake scientific tools for the scientific method. They aren’t familiar with basic principles of skepticism, such as Occam’s razor and the axiom that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. In their conclusions the unexplained becomes the “inexplicable” and they appeal to supernatural explanations over natural ones.
But determining whether footage is “fact or faked” still doesn’t determine whether it’s paranormal or not. Even if the phenomenon and filming is legitimate and not staged, that doesn’t presuppose that what is captured is paranormal.
Over the course of two seasons, the team has investigated claims of a “ghost car,” a “haunted playground swing,” UFOs, lake monsters, spirit writing, an anti-gravity spot, cattle mutilation, ectoplasm, Bigfoot and an alleged chupacabra. They use a wide range of cutting-edge paranormal reality TV equipment, including pocket radar, electromagnetic (EMF) meters, bionic ears, etc.
What takes them thirty minutes to prove incorrectly takes one scientific paranormal investigator three minutes to disprove. For all of the Fact or Faked team’s elaborate tests and elaborate theories, they never once reviewed the clip in slow motion. In doing so as a first step, {Blake} Smith of the Monster Talk podcast revealed that the unearthly “train” was an earthly spider on a web. “Oh what a tangled web we weave…when we run around in the dark with video cameras,” he concludes. On the show’s online forums hundreds of viewers deduced that the footage captured a spider.
Fact or Faked is the paranormal equivalent of wrestling shows. The “evidence” isn’t proof of the paranormal, but proof that some shows are fixed.
I could not agree with Karen more. I’m sure the group are nice folks and have some experience in their own right, but they’re just so young I can’t believe they have things like a being a former FBI agent on their resume. My husband was a professional photographer and also works with digital video. Whenever I watch the show, which isn’t often, I refer to him to see if he what he says. A lot of the time I look at some of the photos and video the team takes and think, “I could’ve done that myself.”
While I have to give these folks credit for putting themselves out there and trying to debunk myths and urban legends, I’ve heard so many of the stories they look at before, and usually something about why they’re myths and legends to begin with. I don’t think they’re providing a particularly valuable service; anyone could do this. They just happen to have the backing of a big cable TV channel (sorry, SyFy, you know I love ya) and some fancy equipment.
All in all it’s not a terrible show – some of the evidence they receive is interesting if nothing else, and I’ve learned a few new things about what urban legends are floating around in the world. Overall, it’s not something I’d set my DVR for.
You can read Karen’s entire article by clicking here.

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