Thursday, March 31, 2011

FACT OR FAKED: Real Battle of LA - Queen Mary Menace

SyFy - Original Air Date: 3/23/11

FoF returns for a second season with a slightly altered cast and a firm grasp on their format.  We start with videos, as usual.  A kitchen poltergeist looks too good to be true, with plenty of places to hide people pulling wires.  Napa Valley Vortex shows a pond draining into a huge hole; it looks like SFX, but it's actually an overflow drain.  The two mysteries they're investigating are: One - The Battle of LA (2/25/1942), when radar hits caused an LA anti-aircraft fire barrage.  Nothing was ever found, but a picture shows a supposed saucer-shaped craft being hit by spotlights.  Two - Queen Mary ghost (2008, Long Beach, CA) shows a ghostly white figure strolling out of a wall and down a hall.  It was supposedly captured by a camera set down in a lounge.

In LA, they talk to experts, who confirm that a meteorological balloon was launched the night of the battle, though the experts can't explain why the balloon didn't come down.  The team then drives to the desert to try and replicate the photo.  First, they test for an optical illusion using 8 searchlights, focusing on the same space.  The result is similar, but not the same, as the beams to do not stop in mid-air (and the beams are different, too, see my end-of segment note).  They decide to see if the beams will stop because of flak, which they test at scale (anti-aircraft being unavailable).  Better, but the beams still don't stop.  So they put a weather balloon in the spots.  This looks much more like the original, but it only takes a hit or two to bring the balloon down.  The same would hold true for a barrage balloon, which would more closely resemble the purported object.  So, the mystery remains.

Or does it?  I gotta say, though, the "original" photo looks retouched to me.  The spotlights are shaped oddly (spreading out too quickly), and they stop too abruptly; also, retouching was common at the time, especially to "clear up" muddy photos.  My guess is that the spots were added by retouchers to the picture of the flak, to better portray the scene to readers.  Compare the beams in the show to those in the photo; the photo beams look airbrushed on.  Too bad the FoF team didn't try to find an original negative.  As to why all those shots were fired, ever see 1941?

On the Queen Mary, they tour the ship -- with people who seem to believe in vortexes -- and talk to the people who shot the film.  They then create a base plate of a figure walking, and project it onto haze from the fog machine.  Close, but you can see the beam.  Next, they try projecting onto a teleprompter -- which is a pretty close match.  Then, for some reason, they start doing the usual ghost huting/EVP stuff -- and turn up a very spooky raccoon, plus what sounds like the laugh of a little girl.  (Mysterious!)  Back at the shop, Bill also throws together a video composite, which matches the original almost exactly.  This proves there are many ways this video could have been faked, but that doesn't prove the Queen Mary isn't haunted.

Not a bad start to the new season, though the science could have been tougher in places.

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