Thursday, July 22, 2010

FACT OR FAKED: Unwanted Visitors; Strange Sightings

SyFy - Original Air Date: 7/22/10

The second week of this new show kicks of with videos of two UFOs crashing together (possible Israeli missile strike), an "angel" at a crash scene (possible lens/film problem), and a Gettysburg ghost in the woods (possible optical trickery) .  They settle on the Fresno "Night Crawler" video, a stick-like figure walking by a surveillance camera, (looks like a marionettes to me, and no original tape exists; fuzzy tapes hide a multitude of fakes.) and a Lake Havasu flying saucer (looks like the Balloon Boy balloon to me).

They interview the witness in Fresno, check out the scene, and try to recreate the video using a kid in a costume and a mechanical puppet on a pulley, once showing the armature and the second time covered by a sheet.  Then they try it by walking the puppet across using a pole and removing the operator with special effects.  They then investigate some local woods -- at night of course -- wondering if the "crawler" could be something living.  They experience the same battery problems endemic to paranormal investigation shows - and naturally speculate about this being caused by "creatures."  Their thermal camera picks up some mysterious movement (probably animals). Their voice analysis of the witness suggests truth telling (though I'm not sure I buy their use of this technology, nor their conclusion, as nervous shaking often indicates lying, not truth telling).  I have to say, I'm not impressed with either the skepticism or the investigative technique in this segment.  For one thing, this is the same team that declared the lights in last week's show "real."  For another, to me the crawler footage looks similar to the "walking gnome" video that made the internet rounds last year - and was proved to be a puppet (as I recall).  Finally, I believe that I could create a very similar "creature" using a "flying ghost" that I had in our yard several years ago.  A good mechanic, or stage magician could make it even more convincing.

The second team goes to Lake Havasu and interviews the witnesses.  Here, we get a bit more context for the footage, though still -- annoyingly -- not the complete clip.  They start by trying a "reflection in glass" trick, similar to one they did last week, but this time with a model UFO rather than lasers; no dice.  They then decide to launch a huge silver UFO balloon (found on the internet) from the state park, run it up to 1000 feet and see how it compares.  In the words of the team, "It looks just like the video."  If untethered and left to float, it seems sure to have the same flight characteristics as the object in the video.  They then go looking for people who have seen the UFO at the time reported, and also saw it as a balloon.  Sure enough, they turn up a park ranger who actually saw the balloon shortly after the launch.  It might have been associated with a movie being shot in the area.  Great flying saucer footage, but declared "fake."  Case closed; well investigated.

So, again, one "real" and one fake.  As I said in the previous review, I fear this may be a trend.  And the "real" investigation really stopped short once they got close to an explanation.  In future, I suggest that the show may want to add a professional magician to the team and adopt an "If I really wanted to do this, how would I achieve that effect?" attitude with each video.  They should also add a professional hunter/tracker, so animals on a thermal camera at night don't become mysterious "creatures."  And while they're making personnel changes, dumping a few "believers" from the production/marketing staff might help this show become truly useful for paranormal investigation, rather than useful about half the time.


yslgirl said...

I totally agree with your last comment. It seems so many of these shows just pick experiments out of a hat. I mean the night crawler video was clearly not a puppet on a line, or on a stick. Clearly the home owner did not produce this video as a hoax. However, with all of their equiptment failing in the field, there was no problems with the stations cameras, or none that was evident. It's so frustrating when watching this show, it seems very Hollywood and rather difficult to believe. I prefer Paranormal State to the expermintal shows, but I think all of these need the cast to shut up more, because they are always asking the others if
they heard this or moved that, causing us to miss whatever it was. In this specific footage I'd expect that they would have access to editing equiptment that could simply clean up the image in a still frame so it was easier to identify, and yeah, invest in some way to eliminate the question of if the thermal cam is sensing a deer or if it is in fact an
unidentified lake creature as suggested by one member of the team. I'd like to find a link to the clip online to clear up the still image myself. Whatever it is it is very small and I'd like to think those light images are long legs, but it also
appears to be a scarf or robe of some kind round the neck that's swinging. I dunno, but could get closer to an explaination or image than these fools and their pumpkin head puppet.

Stephen D. Sullivan said...

It seems pretty obvious to me that the cloth is hiding some kind of armature and making the creature more realistic than it actually is. To me, it doesn't seem to walk on the ground correctly - more like a marionette. I'd say "fake," but whether the homeowner is involved I don't know. I suspect a decent puppeteer or magician would have little trouble duplicating this "creature."

And, yes, a lot less of "Did you hear that?" (and "music" or SFX added that drown out anything the audience might hear) would be appreciated.

Rina said...

I stumbled across your blog while trying to find stuff about this episode of Fact of Faked. Very nice entry. :)

The show gets on my nerves a lot. I find it less believable than most other shows. I just can't wrap my head around the "Experts" who just seem like a gaggle of actors. The fact that I saw Chi-Lan on an episode of some HGTV show and read she used to host TechTv shows kinda makes me doubt she is who she claims she is. :P

Those Night Crawlers interest me a lot! I wish there was more debunking dedicated to them! The way the second one walked all spastic you could see it was wearing some sort of "Pants" looking clothes and had thin legs. Instead they wasted all their time on the extremely obvious balloon ufo. :P

Stephen D. Sullivan said...

Thanks for the kind words. The show, it seems to me, is not scrupulous enough with the difficult investigations. It seems to be a problem that most of the team are "believers" on some level -- otherwise, why start doing EVP sessions (which have no scientific value at all) when things get tricky?

And they often take too long to reach an obvious conclusion. The car being "pushed by ghosts" actually being on a hill, not seen because of optical illusions, for instance. And they miss other obvious solutions -- the magician trick on the ghost writing photos, for one, or (on a show I haven't reviewed yet) the civil war ghost being some kind of accidental reflection caused by the quality/shape/size of the lens in the camera used for the original video.

Not enough science for me. Which means their chance of actually rooting out anything truly supernatural are low (because they're not rigorous enough and believe too much).