Friday, November 19, 2010

FACT OR FAKED: Mystery Mermaid; Ghostly Guardian

SyFy - Original Air Date: 11/18/10

As usual, we start with videos of cases that won't be researched this week.  Dash Cam Ghost looks like a misty figure walking across the road, supposedly caught on a police dash cam.  They want to authenticate it, but it looks like a reflection from a side window to me.  Hawaiian UFO shows 3 lights moving through a Hawaii sunset. Bill says the film was created by Blake Cousins, who has done a number of paranormal videos, and this is just another of his CGI jobs. The Lake Erie Lights were filmed in March 2010 by Eugene Erlich (sp?); they move very strangely in the sky, but the group decides to wait until there are more confirmed sightings.  Which leaves the two cases they are investigating this week: Ghost Guardian features a set of pictures where, over a course of many years, strange blurs appear in pictures of a girl as she grows up.  She's 16 now, and the family thinks the blur is her spirit guardian.  They've supposedly ruled out camera straps.  The Mermaid was filmed off the Great Barrier reef by a photographer who didn't realize what it looked like until he got the film home, and, boy, it does look like a mermaid tail swimming away -- and not like any sea animal I'm familiar with.  (And I'm a sea creature buff.)  So, it's either a fake, or... an excuse to film Jael in a mermaid costume.

I might ask a local fish expert first, but the group quickly flies to Australia, dons their wet suits, and Jael and Ben -- both certified divers -- get wet while Austin mans the sonar.  Quickly, they spot something on sonar, but it's just a shark, and not a match for the video.  Could it be a sea cow (dugong)?  I've seen manatees in the wild from a distance of a few feet, so I know even before the team does that this is not what's on the video - though the dugong does have a mermaid-like fluke.  Next up, Jael in a mermaid suit (thank you, producers), and she looks pretty good -- as a mermaid, I mean -- and maybe with a better costume....  So, they find a professional mermaid named Hannah down under with a better costume and years of experience -- and she's a nearly exact match.  They declare the video a hoax, and Ben even has a CGI recreation of what a real mermaid might look like.  She's a blubbery, hairless creature, that looks nothing like the mythical beauty, or even my own Umira.  Pretty funny finish to this fish story.

In Hawaii, the team talks to the grandmother who takes the mysterious pictures.  The woman claims her granddaughter has seen this "guardian angel," and the girl says she has a sense of being watched at night.  She gives Chi-Lan permission to interview her (with identity hidden) and take pictures.  They set up a film processing lab on site and develop their pictures.  They see nothing remarkable in their first shots, so they decide to try and replicate the effects they see on the ghost pictures.  They set up a dummy as a model and try shooting with a camera strap dangling in front of the lens; it looks fairly close, but doesn't have the right texture.  (Maybe the wrong strap?)  Next, they test climate effects on film, but it doesn't look anything like the "spirit."  So, they try a more elaborate hoax using reflections (which, for some reason, they call holograms), but that seems too elaborate for these people.  Again, an interesting result, but not quite right.  Sadly, this kind of investigation would not be complete without some "ghost hunting," so the lights go out and all the usual pseud-science poking around happens. Larry hears a strange noise on the walkie-talkie, but it sounds like interference to me (and Chi-Lan).  So, they do the expected EVP session, which gives us another strange electronic noise -- which sounds a little, once they point it out, like "I'm watching you right now."  Despite this, the group agrees that the "spirit" on the film is likely a camera strap or other lens interference.  (Which is my conclusion as well.)  Unfortunately, we get an end-of-show sop to the believers that what they've found doesn't rule out some other paranormal activity in the home.

So, again, the team gives us two good explanations -- a trend I'm liking in this series -- despite the nod to what may be the series main audience (true believers) in the closing moment.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

DESTINATION TRUTH - Ghost of Menegai; Kalanoro

SyFy - Original Air Date: 10/14/10

Josh & Crew head to Africa to prowl a haunted volcano and to Madagascar to look for a small, savage creature.  The Menangai crater is in Masai country in Kenya.  It is reportedly haunted by the spirits of those killed in a battle on its rim.  The forest-filled crater is 6 miles wide, so there's a lot of ground to cover.  After touring Nairobi and hobnobbing with the locals, they hop a train and then head by boat and foot into the wilderness.  After a stop at a Masai village for advice (and to obtain an offering for a blessing), the team climbs into the crater.  There, they set up the usual cameras and equipment and go prowling in the dark for ghosts.  Shortly after they make their ritual sacrifice, they start seeing strange shapes in the darkness and hearing strange cackling noises.  (Wildlife?)  In a cave, they see an unexplained light and hear whispering/singing voices.  Back in LA, they see something blurry on a camera, plus the strange light, and hear the "singing" on their recordings.  They have no good explanations.

In Madagascar they go hunting for the Kalanoro, a mischievous tiny, hairy humanoid with razor-sharp claws; it also has backward feet.  After the usual fooling around with the locals, they get some lessons on local fauna and talk to an American biologist who claims to have seen the thing.  Then they head out into the jungle, set up the usual cameras, and stomp around in the dark looking for the creature.  They find some tracks that look like tiny human feet, but the ground is bad for casts, so they take pictures.  They also catch something on the FLIR heat-sensing camera.  Based on the size of the eyes and the thermal image, they determine they were probably photographing nocturnal lemurs; the "footprint" was too undefined to identify.  It seems likely that the Kalonoro is merely an amalgam of local animals, but since Madagascar is still home to a wilderness uncorrputed by man, the show concludes that it's possible something is still out there.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

FACT OR FAKED: Sasquatch Sprint - Alien Attacker

SyFy - Original Air Date: 11/11/10

Videos passed on this week include Mothman flying at a car windshield at night (probable animation), and the "Guardian" UFO footage of a "ship" allegedly hovering over a park, but with no witness they decide to put that one off and maybe look into it more.  Which leaves the videos they're investigating: a Sprinting Sasquatch (the famous Memorial Day film of bigfoot running across a field) and the Alien Attacker (famous black triangle ship with dead alien) where the alien supposedly killed a dog before being brained and photographed by a human.  This second looks obviously fake to me, and the body was supposedly later stolen by a mysterious van, but the group decides to look into it anyway.

After talking to the bigfoot witnesses, they try to duplicate the running speed of the "creature" in the film.  This has been attempted successfully before, in Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science, but this show -- like all others -- makes no mention of previous successful debunking.  (I guess if they did, they wouldn't have a show.)  Team member Austin runs the course in 9.6 seconds, faster than the creature at 10.6 seconds.  They then attempt it again using a 10 pound bigfoot suit, and after taking a big fall, he completes it again, but in around 12 seconds.  Trying again, and taking off his mask at the end, the result looks similar to "growth" in the original creature footage (which some tried to say was the bigfoot carrying a baby on its shoulders).  Then they do some night investigation with IR cameras and sand traps for prints; they also fly over with an IR camera.  They get a hit on the overhead camera and chase it, but can't catch up.  They also find a print.  Conclusion: The footage could be faked, and probably was.  Same conclusion as other shows.  The print is inconclusive, but too small for bigfoot. Which doesn't mean there is no bigfoot, just not here.

On to the alien, checking out the story of "Doctor" Johnathan Reed in Snowalmie Pass, WA.  He claims this creature seized his dog's jaws and ripped the animal in half.  The dog dropped to the ground and turned to ash, whereupon Reed hit the alien in a head with a stick, fatally wounding it.  Nearby, he saw a triangular-shaped craft - 9 1/2 feet long, 2 1/2 feet thick, and 3 feet wide -- hovering three feet off the ground.  Seeing this, he videoed what he saw and then took the alien body, in black jump suit, back to his house.  I'm unimpressed.  It all looks like amateur theater to me, and I'm pretty sure I could recreate it using a bit of hardware with the help of my kids.  Ben, the former FBI guy, points out that though Reed tells the story well, he's been doing it for over 15 years -- a lot of time to rehearse.  They build a triangle craft (obelisk) out of plywood and paint it black; team member Larry has also brought an alien he built.  His alien looks better than the one in the film.  They suspend the craft using a pole wrapped in greenery, a standard magician/SFX trick.  They then plant the alien and use a shaky-cam technique to duplicate the video.  (I'm convinced.)  Finally, they take the alien inside and use servos to recreate its blinking eyes and "autopsy."  (Though the original eyes look like they might have just been flashing lights to me.)  Jael points out this took some skill to recreate, but Rob notes the financial gain for pulling off such a hoax is great.  They then re-interview Reed, and apply "layered voice analysis" to the interview.  Reed claims a life-threatening conspiracy trying to cover up his evidence; he sticks to his story.  The voice analysis says he's lying.  "Johnathan Reed is not who he says he is, and this did not happen to him," Ben concludes

Reed, it turns out, is also known as con-man John Bradley Rutter, and this case has been debunked previously -- a fact turned up by a quick online search.  But, as I said with the bigfoot case, if they told us that in advance, they wouldn't have a show.  On the other hand, this show the team did debunk two stories held dear by "believer" communities, and, in doing so, and bringing the truth to a wider audience, Fact or Faked has done a public service.  Thanks, guys.  Good job.

Friday, November 5, 2010

DESTINATION TRUTH - Guam Zombies; Fangaloblo

SyFy - Original Air Date: 10/28/10

Josh & team go back to Madagascar to look for the monster bat fangaloblo, a 5' bat rumored to carry off the unwary.  The DTers fly to the African isle, hobnob with the locals, talk to witnesses, and witness a street fight.  They then take motorbikes into the wilderness to find the monster.  (Josh needs to learn to wear a helmet.)  Rickety canoes take them into some caves, and dump them into crocodile infested waters.  Fortunately, they survive, and, later bike even further into the wilds to find even bigger caves, and set up base camp.  Then they hike through dangerous caves and cliffs and over a rope bridge.  They find many bats in the caves, though no obvious giants, but they do get a big thermal hit they can't explain.  They do find a "claw" that puzzles their expert back home, too; he thinks the people of Madagacar are seeing something real, possibly a very large bat.

Next, the DT team goes to Guam to look for ghostly zombies, the Taotaomona that haunt the jungles and remote caves of the island (which is an American territory).  As always, the crew  hangs with the locals and gets some background on the zombies, which erected (according to legend) the island's many standing stones.  Later, the DT folk listen to a purported taotaomona moan (EVP) and perform a ceremony to communicate with native ancestors.  A camera man accidentally steps on a sacred stone, possibly incurring the taotaomona's wrath, and later badly cuts his knee.  Shortly thereafter, their tech manager badly scrapes herself up on a cliff climb, after tying a rope to a sacred banyan tree.  Oops.  After setting up the usual base camp, the crew tromps around in the dark looking for zombies.  They hear moans and get strange reactions from their electrical sensors.  When doing an EVP session, one team member is "pushed" in the back - leaving a mark visible on the thermal camera.  They also catch a mysterious shadow on camera, and can find no explanation for it.  While Josh declares their investigation eventful, he is unwilling to say the events are paranormal.

Thus ends another "season" (half season) of Destination Truth on SyFy.  It's been another fun romp with Josh & crew, if not full of earth-shaking discoveries.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

DESTINATION TRUTH - Haunted Island Ruins; Moroccan

SyFy - Original Air Date: 10/21/10

Josh and crew head to Nan Madol in Pohnpei, Micronesia, to check out the haunted jungle city, a.k.a. the "Venice of the Pacific."  They clown with the locals, as usual, and then get the blessing of a tribal chief to visit the city.  Of course, they set up cameras and then tramp around in the dark across the city's island and canals.  They spot an "orb" in the trees, and Josh gets violently ill conducting an EVP session.  (Eerily similar to an earlier explorer who died after removing artifacts.)  An IV drip gets him well enough to return home.  Josh wonders if the orb is an insect, or perhaps mechanical.  EVP sessions turn up the usual fuzzy "voices."  Josh's illness might be connected to a cold snap they experienced within one of the buildings/tombs.  Conclusion?  Something powerful, confirming many legends, is lurking in the ruins.

They next go to Morocco to look for Aisha Kandisha, a succubus who lures men to their deaths in the wilderness.  Recent reports and disappearances lure the crew out to the desert to check out some abandoned casabas.  After setting up base camp, they tromp around in the ruins in the dark to look for a "topless woman with goat legs."  They're spooked by bats and nearly crushed by a falling wall.  They hear sounds, but sounds travel in the desert, and they wonder if people hearing such things (from neighboring villages) have helped inspire this legend.  Teeth fragments they find turn out to be from a cow, and a leg bone brought back with them belongs to a cow, too.  They find nothing to substantiate the legend.

FACT OR FAKED: Symphonic Spirits - Hovering Humanoid

SyFy - Original Air Date: 10/4/10

It seems the team is down to examining 4 videos per week, which is too bad, as I liked both the screening and the debunking of popular vids.  The two discards this show are a poltergeist of many hands in an LA apartment (CGI work) and the mysterious Brown Mountain Lights in NC (probably natural, and too similar to a recent case).  So, they cases they go after are a walking "ghost" caught on a security cam in the the Valentown Museum, Victor NY, and a flying humanoid (witch or bruja) in Texas near Mexico.

Staring at the museum, they talk to the caretaker/curator about the place's history; she firmly believes there are paranormal events happening there.  They also talk to the original videographer, who says they only noticed the "ghost" later.  To me, it looks like a quirky in-lens reflection, but the team starts by trying to see if it's a real person, just out of focus: nope.  They do a reflection test, to see if it was accomplished by a common magician's trick: very close, but not an exact match.  Next, they make a video of someone walking and project that into a wire mesh screen: not as good as the reflection.  At this point, their experiments are interrupted by ghostly piano and then guitar music. Chu Lan, though skeptical, is stumped, so they go into Ghost Hunter mode.  Poking around, they find some odd reflections and hear things, too.  They catch a "scream" on EVP, but, sadly, never go back to their previous investigation.  And I still think the ghost is a lens reflection.  Again, they've stopped investigating too soon.

In Texas, the other team talks to a witness, who says the flying humanoid was not a hoax by her UFO group -- it's an unidentified flying object.  (Nice coincidence that the thing showed up at a UFO meeting.)  The FF team starts by checking out a flying man jet pack.  (I love these.)  There are jet pack enthusiasts around the world, and a several enthusiasts in Monterey Mexico may have access to one. So, they have a pilot fly one and try to replicate the video.  It's close, but could not carry enough fuel to do what's seen in the video (the pack has a 30 second flight limit).  Plus, the flying humanoid was silent, whereas the pack is noisy like a jet.  Next, they try a zip line, but though it looks good, the man on the line is also more human-looking than the original.  (Balloons?  Cutouts?)  Next, they test out debris carried along by the wind: balloons or garbage bags.  They put some balloons in (witch-shaped) garbage bags and fly them like a kite, but the balloons wobble too much.  Ben suggests an elaborate hoax to fool the UFO club - using helicopter remote controls to fly the balloon.  So they set that up and . . . bingo.  It's an exact match and a case well solved.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

FACT OR FAKED - Haunted Mansion Mist; Starlight Intruder

SyFy - Original Air Date: 10/28/10

Possible cases this week include: strange sand circles in El Paso's Rio Grand basin (turns out to be an art project); the Beast of Gum Hill, which seems to show a bigfoot crossing upriver from an ATV group (but on closer inspection looks like a human, and appears staged, too), and the two cases they investigate.  The McPike Mansion is supposedly haunted and some ghost hunters videotaped a "strange" mist in the cellar.  Also, a Delta UFO in Fremont, California, was captured on a night vision camera on December 5, 2008.  They start with the mansion in Alton, IL, and try to replicate the mist in the video, which swirled and seemed to follow people.  They use a blower to put dust made from Fuller's earth in the air, and it looks very similar to the video.  They also experiment with an insect swarm, but the bugs keep landing on the experimenters, and it doesn't look right.  They use an air conditioner and a humidifier to create their own fog, but that, too, doesn't look right.  Their issue is that the mist and dust linger, rather than dissipating quickly.  So they do their Ghost Hunter bit, and get some EVPs - ghost tapping - and what looks like bug feelers on the camera.  Some of the team conclude the "mist" was really dust, though others think the mansion may be haunted.

In Freemont, CA, the second team hunts for the triangular UFO, talks to the witness, etc.  Then they test a kite with lights (too unstable), a wicked cool RC jet (too noisy & doesn't remain triangle shaped as it moves), and finally a hang glider with lights on it.  And, bingo!  The glider is a perfect match, and it turns out that there are hang gliders that do night flying with anti-collison lights on.  Great explanation. This show came closer to any they've yet done to having 2 rational explanations.  In fact, until they went ghost hunting at the mansion, it seemed pretty clear that they'd found a reasonable explanation for the mist (combination of dust and moisture).  Too bad the show seems to want to pander to "believers," even when they don't have to.  Still, a much more thorough set of investigations this time around. Good job!