Wednesday, August 18, 2010

FACT OR FAKED: Blazing Horizon; Rollover

SyFy - Original Air Date: 8/12/10

As always, the show starts with a session checking out a few videos.  Rancho Cucamonga Triangle is supposedly a UFO, but the group thinks it's more likely a plane.  The Webcam Ghost looks like cheap CG SFX. The Drone UFO is another in the continuing series of jellyfish-like drone hoaxes: more CG.  The Wiltshire Crop Circle seems complex, but Bill notes humans can make very complex circles; a second video seems to show a globe of light in the circle (though it looks like a bug or fluff to me).  The two cases they decide to focus on are the Paulding Light in MI (supposedly a ghost light warning trains) and the Ghost Track of San Antonio, TX, where cars supposedly move uphill on their own (pushed by ghosts killed in a bus accident).  As always, the team splits into two groups to investigate.  These "phenomena" seem to have easy, non-supernatural explanations to me; we'll see how the teams do.

The Paulding light has souvenir shops set up nearby, propagating the ghost lantern story.  The proprietors take the team out to the vantage point, which looks like view down a power line right-of-way.  Some witnesses think it could be reflections or lights from small planes in a nearby airport.  The team sets up cameras, as the light is reported pretty much every night; they also plan to drive down the lines to try and find it.  Sure enough, the light soon appears, and they give chase, but can't find it. So they run some scans. but find no unusual natural phenomena. The light doesn't even turn up on their infrared camera.  Next day, they head to the airport to do a fly over with a bright light, but they can't fly low enough to replicate the light. Next, they try car headlights.  They shut down the highway so they're the only car on the suspect roadway, but their observer doesn't see their lights - though he sees the bright white Paulding Light, even when they turn their lights out.  Since their actual scientific experiments have "failed," they go to EVP to try to record ghost voices.  (At this point, they have veered from science to fantasy.)  Naturally, the EVPs don't turn up anything.  Why they didn't try to track the light down on foot, keeping it in sight as they went, I don't know; that would seem an obvious course - especially over the course of several nights.  Or maybe they should bring in an expert on optics and reflection (as that show, the name of which escapes me, with Amanda Tapping once did).  While they get points for doing a multi-day investigation, they clearly didn't keep at it long enough.  Thus, the Paulding Light remains mysterious.

I'm betting that the ghost track phenomena will end up being an optical illusion, where you're actually rolling downhill when it appears you're rolling up.  (Anyone who's been to any of the Mystery Spots scattered throughout America will be familiar with this illusion.)  We'll see what they figure out, though. They meet the witness and borrow his car to replicate the video; they clean the car to try and remove any "ghost" prints.  Then, they put the car in neutral, take out the keys, and release the clutch and brake.  Sure enough, the car starts to roll and quickly picks up speed -- and they almost get hit by a train.  They try it again, and it happens again, this time rolling them directly up the little hill near the tracks and across those tracks before stopping.  At this point, I'd try it with a basketball or something similar, but they decide to dust for ghost prints - and, not surprisingly, find nothing. (Suggesting the "ghost" prints the witness saw were on his car before the original incident.)  Then they test with a school bus, which rolls over the tracks, too.  Again, they test for prints, but again find nothing; hauling a water level out on the terrain might be a better idea.  Instead, they test for magnetism & electric fields, and find nothing there, too.  Finally, they pull out a surveyor's level and do some real, scientific measuring.  Which means they figure out exactly what I supposed right at the start: optical illusion.  They also discover that the legend of the school bus accident didn't even happen in Texas.  So, while it took them a while, and they left the Paulding Light as a mystery, at least they got one right.  I'm beginning to think we'll never get a show with two "fakes," though; this seemed like a strong candidate.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

FACT OR FAKED: Predator; Red Sky at Night

SyFy - Original Air Date: 8/5/10

The show starts, as usual, reviewing videos and determining what cases to follow.  Stairway ghost turns out to have cuts, shadows behind ghosts, and 2 people pretending to be one on different floors.  Campfire creature they figure is just a person crawling at the edge of the firelight.  Russian Pyramid shows a pyramid-shaped UFO over Moscow's Red Square, but seems an obvious hoax, due to lack of witnesses in this very public space.  The cases they investigate are the Beast of Dartmoor, some kind of mysterious bounding animal that looks like a black lion, and El Cajon Triangle, a Feb. 2008 UFO sighting of red lights in a triangular formation.  Half the group goes to England while the other goes to CA.

The Dartmoor beast has a legend that sounds like The Hound of the Baskervilles - your basic hellhound haunting the moors.  (It looks like a gussied up hound to me.)  They locate the spot where the film was taken, then go to a local animal farm to film a pony, a Labrador-like dog, and a lion against a green screen to compare to the film.  Pony & dog don't look good on film; the lion looks similar, but not enough. A wild boar or a large black (zoo) cat, perhaps?  So they go looking with a local game expert and find a ram carcass scattered over a hillside.  They set up cameras and search in the dark (naturally).  They hear a deep growl, spot horses in the dark, and find another carcass.  Returning home, they create a composite cat-boar simulation in their computer.  (Why?)  England is home to no native big cats, yet people are seeing something.  They don't think the video was hoaxed (though I wouldn't rule it out), so there's "something" in Dartmoor. But what?

The El Cajon team interviews Paul, the video eyewitness. (I sense a voice analysis coming.)  The witness says the lights just hung out and then slowly went out; he wonders if it was a helicopter. The team goes to the Mojave to check out some theories.  Sky lanterns have trouble in the Mojave winds, but the team doesn't think it's the lights anyway.  Lights on a helicopter look right, but the helicopter is clearly audible. But what about a balloon with safety flares on a triangular rig - a simple hoax? Turns out, that's a perfect match, and the show declares the lights over El Cajon a hoax.  It's nice to see them come to this conclusion, as they'd "gone easy" (in my opinion) on many recent investigations.  And I'm still not convinced about that beast.  But how much can you do in a 1-hour show?  Thankfully, there is no bogus voice analysis this week, probably because they already ruled the "UFO" a hoax.