Sunday, December 16, 2012

FINDING BIGFOOT: Bigfoot & Wolverines

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 12/16/12

If you've seen the show or read my other reviews by now, you know the drill for this series.  The team goes someplace -- northern lower Michigan in this episode -- following a photo or video.  They evaluate whether they think the video is real or fake (with Ranae, the skeptic, often the only one voting "fake"), then do some night investigations, hold a town hall meeting, talk to witnesses, and have a solo campout.  So, I'll only be remarking on results or unusual evidence during this review.  The inciting incident on this show is a moving truck supposedly being hit by by a bigfoot-thrown log (at night), with footprints as evidence.  Ranae, remains skeptical, citing misidentification.  Naturally, the footprints are no longer around to look at.

One woman in the town hall has an impressive recorded howl that might be a bigfoot, a sound she's heard on numerous nights in the last weeks (including the night previous).  Matt camps out near there, but finds/hears nothing.  For their final search, the team takes to horseback and tries to find places where deer would currently act as prey for sasquatch.  (An idea they maybe should have hit on long ago.)  At night, they hear knocks and howls.  "Show yourselves, you hairy bastards. I want to see you," Ranae declares.  She could not explain the wood knockings.  Sadly, no prints and no video -- at least, though, they have some sounds on tape.  And that's better than a lot of these investigations.  Maybe they should stick around and spend more than a week in Michigan.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

FINDING BIGFOOT: Dances with Bigfoot

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 12/10/2012

The group is off to the pine-forest mountains of Arizona to investigate a video purporting to show a sasquatch (juvenile) in a camp ground. (Looks juvenile to me, all right -- as in human teenager, complete with logo sweatshirt, pants, and long hair.)  The recreation shows Bobo is much larger than the figure on the video, but the videographer still thinks it's a bigfoot, and this is a training ground for their young.  Yeah.  Right.  More night investigations turning up nothing, more town-hall meetings (with interesting stories) ensue.  Ranae meets a witness who seems credible, and can't discount what he's seen (a running bigfoot by the road).  But are credible stories proof?  Cliff camps out, finding nothing but strange sounds (cougar?).  Really, I could practically write these show descriptions without watching them, and since I'm only interested in real evidence, there's very little to tell.  They do talk to some Native Americans, who believe the sasquatch to be real; Bobo and Ranae have a discussion in which she says she understands their belief in totem animals, but that doesn't mean the creatures are physically real.  Ranae needs scientific proof, and so do I -- but this is another episode without any.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 12/3/2012

The team goes to the Sierra Nevada Range (CA) to investigate ongoing sightings, recordings of strange sounds, and smudge prints. My favorite "bigfoot excuse" of the show: "It could be a sasquatch trying to sound like a coyote." Really?  Why not analyze that recording with an expert (and not a bigfoot expert).  The smudges in question were left on the windows of a truck and are described as "looking like gorilla prints."  But Cliff can't recreate them, his anatomy is wrong (as are the hands of all primates), and Ranae conjectures that a bear is more likely.  Indeed.  Later, on one of the traditional night investigations, Matt momentarily mistakes Cliff for an unknown creature on IR camera.  The usual tromping around in the dark, town hall meeting, and witness interviews ensue.

Ranae is stumped by one story in which a woman describes a huge, hairy creature leaning on her window momentarily before it moves away.  It's much too large to be a human, and Ranae concludes either the woman is delusional, or she saw something that can't be explained.  Another witness story has Ranae saying "too far away to be sure," but the believers are certain that the sighting was a bigfoot.  The team also visits some ancient Native American pictographs that supposedly depict bigfoot; the believers are thrilled to see them, but the show doesn't let us know (resident skeptic) Ranae's thoughts.  A final night investigation yields a sound that seems like a falling tree (though they don't GPS the spot to investigate during the day), but nothing more.  So, again, many stories, no proof.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 11/25/12

The team goes to Oklahoma to investigate bigfoot reports and a possible hair sample.  Despite the huge farms and flat areas of the state, the monster sightings center around wooded riverlands.  Roger Roberts, the guy with the hair sample, also has footprint casts (which don't look like much to me or team scientist Ranae) with a 57" stride.  Ranae manages to re-create the stride (at a jog and run), but notes that the straight line of the prints felt awkward to recreate; she also likes the hair samples -- hoping for real proof at last.  Naturally, night investigations and town-hall meetings follow, but only after they take the hair to a DNA lab (where Bobo accidentally knocks things over).  We'll see what the tests turn up later.

I won't remark much on the interviews or searches, as they follow the standard format, as does Ranae's solo camp out.  One witness, a wildlife officer, does have some blurry camera pictures, though -- which Bobo & Matt think look staged.  Until the witness explains the circumstances, then (being believers), Matt, Bobo, and Cliff change their minds.  Too bad no Ranae point-of-view on this, though she does hear a howl she can't identify on her camp out (and too bad no audio on that).  So, more hearsay evidence, this time from the team itself.  Later tromping around in the wilds turns up nothing solid, either.  Nor does the lab report, which is so anticlimactic that they put it in mid-episode.  The hairs aren't human, but no conclusions on what they might be are drawn.  Despite this, the group makes much out of the fact that these hairs have never been cut (but rather were worn and torn naturally).  But that's it.  Really?  Not much payoff for a big build up.

Monday, November 19, 2012


Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 11/18/12

Matt, Cliff, Bobo, and (most importantly for me) Ranae head to Vermont to check out a controversial picture and look for sasquatch.  The photo from a trail camera shows some kind of hairy beast amid fallen apples.  The three male team members think it's a bigfoot and child reaching down to get apples.  Ranae wonders if it is someone in a costume (but I wonder about mistaken identity, and remember the famous "bigfoot" game camera photo that turned out to be a bird).  They decide to do a night hunt in the area where the picture was taken.  They hear "knocks" and noises, but nothing more.

Then we do the standard town-hall meeting and talking to witnesses, with Cliff camping out alone to see what he can find.  After the usual compelling stories (with Ranae being skeptical), the whole team ATVs into the back country for more tromping around in the dark.  They howl and knock (and only hear one possible knock back).  So, again, the usual evidence -- or lack thereof -- and a fuzzy photo.  I believe that, if there are such creatures, game cameras (and phone cameras) may be the best chance of finding them, but this photo didn't convince me (or Ranae).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

FINDING BIGFOOT: Ripped from the Headlines

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 11/11/12

The team heads to Pocatello, Idaho, to check out a video shot by teenagers last winter (2011) that seems to show a bigfoot-like-creature atop a snowy, forested ridge.  The footage has been nicely stabilized by local news, but the footprint they show looks like a fake to me (and Cliff) -- too regular in its features.  Ranae thinks the whole thing is too good to be true, noting that teens are "the perfect candidates to pull off a prank or hoax."  And it only takes her 15 minutes to hike up to the place the teens said it took them an hour to get to.  She suggests the video shows another hiker in heavy winter gear, though Matt believes it's a bigfoot.  They then do a night hunt, and after that a town-hall meeting and witness interviews.

Ranae is this week's solo camper, and she does that while the rest talk to witnesses.  As usual, the stories are compelling (I had a friend tell me of her encounter 2 weeks ago), but where's the physical proof?  They then go to the lab of Dr. Jeff Meldrum (famous bigfoot researcher) and show him the video.  He compares it favorably to the Patterson Gimlin film (which you probably know I believe to be a hoax - see Is it Real review).  When the group reunites, Ranae shows them pictures of footprints she found in the dust, which don't seem to have been from a bear.  But is it bigfoot?  They decide to throw a Rave in the woods to see if the sights and sounds will attract the animal.  They get a thermal hit in a tree down the valley, which the guys think was a small bigfoot, but Ranae (sensibly) thinks was a racoon or small bear.  Again, nothing concrete, and I wish they could spend more time in one area concentrating on a search, rather than flitting around from week to week.

FINDING BIGFOOT: Untold Stories: Meet the Squatchers

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 11/11/2012

This episode looks behind the scenes on the making of the show and includes a Q&A with the team - Matt, Cliff, Ranae & Bobo - and the Executive Producer, Keith Hoffman, and show runner, Chad Hammel.  They talk about the difficulty of working with a 7-8 person crew in the wild in the dark.  They mention one of the segments that pissed me off, where a "mysterious" animal was shown in a segment and then never explained.  (Turned out it wasn't a deer, as I had thought, but a horse.)  And apparently leaving it a mystery was the producer's idea, and 3 team members nearly quit because of it.  I don't blame them; it made them look like idiots.

They talk about the hazards of the show, including poison oak and a balloon crash, and demonstrate the hunter-cam rig they wear when tromping around in the dark.  They interview Ranae on what it's like to be the skeptic among believers, and the experiences that shake her skepticism.  They also talk to a 14-year-old witness from an upcoming show.  Then they show off their bigfoot calls, and teach the producer to try one.

All in all, an interesting behind-the-scenes glimpse of the show that gives an appreciation on what goes into making the series.

Friday, August 31, 2012

DESTINATION TRUTH - Hanging Coffins; Kazakh Monster

SyFy - Original Air Date: 8/14/12

Off to the Philippines to hunt for ghosts in hanging coffins, which have been put up the side of a mountain and hung on cave walls by locals in a very remote area near Sagata.  An arduous trek takes Josh & co. to the ancient graveyard, which appears to still be used.  Naturally, they hear weird sounds and see shadows; even Josh is freaked out.  The "groan" in an area with animals and creaking wood near the coffins don't impress me (wood settles).  Nor do I think much of the EVPs or camera malfunctions.  Nor am I impressed with the misty "figure" that shows up in one shot. Malfunctioning camera & local atmospherics, more likely.  If this is one of their most compelling pieces of evidence, I'm deeply unimpressed.

Then it's tromping through Kazakhstan to find the local bigfoot, Kiyik Adam.  In the dark the team catches some eye shine, but is it bigfoot or a bear?  Whistles turn out to be from a bird, and a small thermal hit a small animal, definitely not bigfoot.  A larger thermal hit could be bear, elk, or...?  Oddly, their expert in the US doesn't offer a guess on the eye shine.  "It's easy to imagine there may be something to these stories," Josh concludes.

How you liked this season of Destination Truth depends on your tolerance for Josh, Ryder, and the rest.  The episodes follow the standard model: go to exotic place, interact with the locals, eat strange food, and tromp around in the dark looking for monsters/ghosts.  Sadly, as with all supernatural shows, DT is long on commercial break scares and short on actual ... Truth.  I enjoy these characters and will stick with them, but I'm not really expecting them to find anything.  And I was really disappointed that their "best evidence" looks more like a camera malfunction or operator error.  Call me when you get a picture of a monster that you saw _before_ you checked the tape/film/etc.

DESTINATION TRUTH - Vampire Monsters; Island of the Damned

SyFy - Original Air Date: 8/7/2012

The show follows its usual format of traveling, talking to local residents, witnesses, and experts, and then tromping around in the dark (and sometimes the day) looking for clues.  First up this week is searching for vampires, which Josh describes as local chupacabras, in Transylvania (southern Romania).  They get spooked by shadows in ruins and caves, and catch what might be a wolf on their cameras. They also find dog, cow, and goat bones, as well as the tooth of a cave bear.  But no vampires.

Next, it's off to Sweden to search for the ghosts of witches on Bla Jungfrun island.  They fly to Sweden, boat to the island, and poke around, mostly in the dark.  They follow "voices" that nearly lead them off a seaside cliff, and they get spooked by shadows in a cabin.  They get nothing on camera inside, but they catch an EVP they think says "leave now" in Swedish. Outside, they get an "orb" "floating" over a stone labyrinth (pattern), but the "orb" looks like a reflection of some type to me.  So, again, nothing concrete, but a lot of running around in the dark, scaring themselves.  How much you enjoy this depends on how much you enjoy Josh, or how hot you think Ryder is.

DESTINATION TRUTH - Spirits of Tika; Creature from the Black Lagoon

SyFy - Original Air Date 7/31/12

Josh, Ryder, & crew go to Tikal, a Mayan city in Guatemala to look for ghosts.  If you've read these reviews before, you know the drill: They go to the area, hang out with the locals, and then investigate the (ancient, deserted) city -- wandering around in the dark and scaring themselves. They have camera trouble, but I think this more likely due to environment than supernatural stuff.  Though they do catch mysterious illumination of a temple wall, where no people were (bio luminescence or static?) and some EVPS, which y'all know I don't really believe in.  (If that's the best ghosts can do, why worry?)  They also have "personal experiences," but I'm not too fond of those as evidence, generally, either.

Then the crew goes to Fiji to look for a sea monster plaguing the local mangrove swamps.  The usual talking to witnesses and local scientists follow, as well as hanging out and clowning around.  (Really, if you've seen this show, you know how it works.)  Diving offshore during the day, they encounter some big bull sharks, but no monster.  Poking around at night, they see ripples on cameras, and Josh gets knocked off of a raft that he unwisely stands on.  But he isn't eaten. Back in LA, their evidence is largely inconclusive, but their scientist expert suggests an invasive marine green iguana, which can grow to six feet long -- and would be unknown to locals.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

DESTINATION TRUTH - Alien Invaders; Swedish Lake Monster

SyFy - Original Air Date: 7/24/12

Josh & team go to Kazakhstan to search for fallen UFOs.  There, they fool around with the locals, as usual, and talk to witnesses, some of whom claim the government took away the mysterious fallen sphere. Which, in fact, Josh discovers the government has done, and they then take him to see it.  (What a change from the usual story!)  They let him photograph the sphere and even take a small flaked-off piece for analysis, as they don't know what it is.  (Looks like one of those spheres that used to ring Soviet space capsules to me.)  They go to the forest where the alien reports come from, set up camp, and go hunting in the dark.  They see a shooting star, find a warm chunk of metal, and see a strange light moving quickly across the sky.  (Satellite? Space Station?)   The sphere turns out to be titanium, and shows traces of melting, perhaps from reentry. So, they take their evidence to a UFO expert. The photos that started this quest he declares a missile shot from the local spaceport: the Cosmodrome, the biggest spaceport in the world; the sphere is likely a fallen Russian satellite.  The first light the UFO expert declares a shooting star; the second he doesn't know -- though it still looks like a space station (with tether extended to a trailing instrument pack) to me.

Then the team is off to Sweden to look for the Great Lake Monster, the Swedes' snake-like Loch Ness beast, which is protected by law.  The team eats strange food (moose) and talks to the locals.  There is a local, government-sponsored, monster-hunting research center which has 2 pretty mysterious-looking videos: one shows an eel-like tendril/creature underwater, the other 2 strange humps moving across the lake.  Josh spots something on the thermal during a flyover, but when they surround it with jet skis, it's gone, perhaps vanished into the deep.  So they go diving in the dark, cold waters, but find nothing. A night water investigation must be called for, because you always have to hunt monsters at night.  (Or it wouldn't be scary.)  And you know, I always wonder about chasing after shy monsters with noisy speedboats (or other motor vehicles). Holy heard you coming miles away!  They get a hit/wave on their thermal and something big on sonar before heading back to LA to talk to Lee Kats, biologist.  He thinks the the eel-like thing is strands of algae and the humps possibly something drifting. The thermal hits from plane & night suggest some kind of animal, clearly not cold blooded.  Some sightings are clearly misidentified, but perhaps something still lurks in the lake.

Another fun show, as usual, made more interesting by cooperative governments not looking to cover up UFOs and an official Swedish monster-hunting team.

Monday, July 23, 2012

TOURNAMENT OF DEATH FUNDED! The Final Push! New “Get in the Story” Rewards & Stretch Goals!

In case you haven't heard, late last night we reached our funding goal!  So, Tournament of Death (1 & 2) is now officially a GO!  Live writing starts when the Summer Games do, but we've still got about a day to push this as far as we can!

Thank you so, so much!  You all are AWESOME!

In case you missed it, I recently lowered the costs for the "Get in the Story" rewards where you can sponsor a monster, get a character named after you (or someone you love), or even help create an actual contestant.  Existing backers got first crack at those, and numbers are limited, so if you want one, snatch it up now.  (There's no "tomorrow" on these!)

Also, because I want these books to be the coolest they can possibly be, I just lowered the "make the books illustrated" Stretch Goals.  The stretches now start at only $2000 -- we're almost there already!

Help me pack the book with illustrations by: 1) Telling everybody you know about this! and 2) Getting your friends to pledge!

This is also a great time to check your backer level and upgrade.  (Now that we know we're funded!)  Maybe that softcover or hardcover looks better now that you know it's a sure thing.  Or maybe sponsoring a monster or naming a character will impress your friends.  Maybe you even want to snatch up that 1 remaining "create a contestant" reward!

And remember, all editions of the rewards you get are exclusive to this Kickstarter.

So, that's it.  We've got about a day to get this all wrapped up, and then those that are aboard head for the Tournament of a Lifetime -- and those that aren't wish they hadn't missed the boat.

Again, thank you all so very much.  Let's push through this final day and make Tournament of Death the best it can be!

Below: Possible Backers-Only Cover for Tournament of Death (Raw) 2.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


We're just one weekend (three short days) away from the funding deadline for my Kickstarter project, and I've decided to sweeten the pot.

I've lowered the costs on the "Name In Lights" backer levels, where you get to work with me to develop challenges (MONSTERS, traps, etc.), characters, and/or get someone in the book named in your honor.  This is your chance to have your Name In Lights -- and these levels make great gifts, too!

Everyone who pledges by Friday night will get an extra e-book sent to them (via site mail) on Saturday!  That's right, if you pledge now, you get a free book (related to Tournament of Death whether or not the Kickstarter succeeds.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

DESTINATION TRUTH - Ghosts of Cannibal Village - Kapre

SyFy - Original Air Date: 7/17/12

In the Fijian village of Namutautau, missionaries were once slain by local cannibals; now the villager's descendants think they are being haunted by vengeful spirits.  Naturally, Josh & crew go to investigate, which, as usual, means talking to witnesses, goofing with locals, and, this time, not eating strange food.  (You never know who it might be.)  They catch a "strange light" (looks like a bug) in a cave where people were, according to lore, cooked.  Then they explore the proverbial haunted village and do 1-on-1 spook-out stakeouts (isolation sessions).  Liquid on an altar shows markers for human blood, people feel "touches" and we get the usual "weird" EVPs.  Plus the ax used to killed the missionary (still displayed in the ruins) falls over during the investigation without being touched -- apparently.  All in all, just another day at the ghost hunt -- but I remain skeptical.

Filipinos have claimed to be menaced by the towering Kapre since time gone by, so Josh & crew go to Manila, eat & goof with the locals, check out a Stargate-themed strip club (they don't get in), and head into the outback to talk to witnesses and find the beast.  They get some thermal hits on their cameras, and nearly run into something in the bushes.  An expert suggests a tarsir, which is much smaller than a kapre (bigfoot) in a tree, a wild pig in the grass, and a mystery animal in a daylight tree.  So, more fun exploration, but no real finds.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

HAUNTED HIGHWAY - Darkman of Standing Rock; Blackstar Shadow Man

SyFy - Original Air Date:

In this new show, there are two teams: Jack Osborne (host) and his researcher Dana make up one, and Jael & Devin from Fact or Faked make up the other -- and their presence is the reason I'm even checking this show out.  My first impression from the clips is that this is another "people running around in the dark scaring themselves" show.  We'll see how that pans out as Devin & Jael head to North Dakota to find the Darkman, sometimes called the Grim Reaper or the Devil, the sighting of which portends bad things to come.  This show (supposedly) features no camera crews, just the hosts/researchers filming themselves.  Clearly a show for people who like shaky cameras; I am not one.  They collect stories from locals and try to pinpoint where to hunt this creature: Grey Ghost Butte.  Then it's running around in the dark scaring themselves.  Although they do catch a pair of "red eyes" on video.  Later, their fire "mysteriously" extinguishes itself and their horses run off. But, mostly this was like watching Blair Witch with people I know and like already from TV.

Second Jack/Dana part is looking for the Shadowmen, "malevolent spirits" you can only see out of the corner of your eye (in a canyon in California).  More witness stories, more blundering around in the dark scaring themselves.  And a video of a shadow (bug?) moving across Dana just before one of her freak-outs.  Like the first segment, the hosts are unwilling to declare anything supernatural was proved in all their tromping around, but...

Let's be serious: This is a mythology show.  I like mythology shows, mythology is one of my favorite subjects, but only when it's done in the spirit of education/anthropology.  This, on the other hand, is another in a series of shows trying for success by playing up to superstitious believers.  My son, who walked into the room while I was watching said, "If this were really science, the woman performing the experiment wouldn't know what the witnesses said they had previously experienced."  Exactly.  You go into a room where I say I've seen the shape of a dog on the wall, and by gum that's what you'll be looking for, and chances are you may find it.  I doubt that, despite my fondness for Jael & Devin, I'll be reviewing this show much more, because in the end, it really was just people running around in the dark scaring themselves.

Time to turn on the lights.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

DESTINATION TRUTH - Return to the Haunted Forest; Belize

SyFy - Original Air Date: 7/10/12

Josh & the DT team return to a famous haunted forest in Romania, where -- last time -- one of their camera crew was apparently knocked off his feet, and scratched, by an invisible force.  Now they've lured him back for a second go-round.  (Sounds like a set up for a "Don't do that!" horror movie, doesn't it?)  First, of course, they must fraternize with locals, eat strange food, and talk to local experts.  Supposedly, the haunted forest has only gotten worse since DT's incident.  Despite the fact that during the last time they tried to overfly the area, their plane's roof came off (literally), the try it again and spot the strange, treeless circle in the middle that seems to be the center of the activity.  And are forced out of the sky by sudden gusts of wind.  They spot mysterious "lights" on their IR cameras, find some weird "laughing" sounds on their EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) recordings, and get scared by mysterious shadows.  Sitting in the mysterious circle, their cameraman gets a ringing in his ears and one of his ears is mysteriously bloodied.  (Though this might be nerves and disorientation, still, the team is spooked.

In Beliz, the Tata Duende is a small rat-like humanoid with powerful claws and a whistle-like cry that heralds its coming.  Local witnesses, food, experts follow -- as usual.  They tromp through the jungle and go swimming in a cave in the dark.  (As if all this wasn't dangerous enough in broad daylight.)  They hear strange sounds (howler monkeys), get spooked by unseen things in the water, and get a skull analyzed (not a primate), but find no real poof of the mythical creature.

DESTINATION TRUTH - Vietnam's Bigfoot

SyFy - Original Air Date: 7/10/12

In this 5th season opener, Josh, Ryder, and crew head to the jungles of Vietnam to hunt for bigfoot.  There, they perform their usual rituals of meeting the locals, eating strange foods, and talking with local experts on the crypto-beast.  In the jungle, they hear "footsteps" and spot a fleeting figure on some of their cameras before losing it near a rapid river.  (And almost drowning.)  Stomping through the jungle, they find prints and take casts.  Stomping through a huge cave, they find more prints, but left the casting powder behind,  Annoyingly, they don't go back for those prints, which looked very clear in the video.  They don't catch the beast, though, and soon head back to the US to analyze what they've found.  They scan the prints into 3d and take all their evidence to Jeff Meldrum.  Of course, the cave prints are not clear enough to identify just from video.  ;-p  Meldrum, a well-known bigfoot researcher with reputable scientific credentials, concludes that Josh's cast along with the photos are the best evidence yet of an unrecognized species in the remote jungles of Vietnam ... the best evidence yet, short of finding the creature itself.  Josh declares it the most significant evidence to date of an unknown primate.

Another entertaining episode in perhaps the best of the "monster hunter" shows, DT certainly entertains me more than the rest, and occasionally they even find something strange.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

FACT OR FAKED: Surveillance Specter; Morgue Mystery

Syfy - Original Air Date: 6/26/12

This show follows its usual format, which I've documented many times, so I'll hit the highlights.  Passed Over This Week: Mississippi UFO -- Two lights hover over water, but they could easily be a military craft.  Russian Levitating Girl is blurry and likely faked, though some team members are interested in it.  Fort Worth Explosions -- The alleged UFOs are merely news helicopters reporting transformer explosions during a storm.

INVESTIGATED:  Surveillance Specter shows a spectral figure on a security camera at a supposedly haunted British school, Bellgrave Hall.  Bill says many paranormal investigator teams have looked into this video and not been able to determine what it is.  Falling leaf in rain test: Near perfect match, but they continue testing for due diligence.  Smoke Grenade Test: Similar, but not big enough, and the original "specter" seems to be in the air.  Flogo (floating soap bubble clouds) Test: Also remarkably similar, though a lot of trouble to go to.  It's a leaf. Yeah.  Why could none of the other "investigators" figure this out?  But, as Jael says, "True to Fact or Faked form, we should do a night investigation."  (I wish they didn't need these to sell the show.  Can you imagine Mythbusters doing this?)  They capture strange "footsteps" from overhead, where there was no floor above them, and a mysterious shadow moving across a stairway wall -- which is good as far as spookstuff goes, but still... Who cares?

Morgue Mystery is a photo that shows a spectral figure standing in front of boxes (looks like motion blur) and a video of an unattended chair toppling over during an investigation in a supposedly haunted morgue.  They figure the chair topple is either real or a hoax, no in between.  Spider Wire Test: A magnet on wire attached to the chair is a spot-on recreation of the original, but doesn't have the initial upward movement. Electromagnetic Hoax, using a tiny electronic ram that pops out of the chair leg is even better looking. The chair tip could definitely have been hoaxed.  Motion Blur Tests: Changing the camera settings quickly results in a good match, but they try some other ideas as well.  Anamorphsis Test is an optical illusion technique that creates a picture that can only be seen from one particular angle -- and that looks good, but the motion blur was better.  So, time for the ghost hunt (so believers will keep watching the show).  They get the usual equipment malfunctions, and film a doll on a string (the place is decked out like a haunted house) spinning where there is no wind.  Conclusion: Maybe paranormal, but the photo at least was motion blur.

My conclusion: Don't go hunting ghosts when you've got better explanations for "weird" events.  Have you ever seen a ghost hunt on one of these shows where absolutely nothing happens?  The cynical part of me suspects cameramen and/or Production Assistants goose things up a bit.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

CHASING UFOS - Dirty Secrets

NatGeo - Original Air Date: 6/29/12

The team, Ben, Ryder, & James, goes to Fresno, CA, to check out triangular UFO sightings.  They talk to witnesses, one of whom thinks he saw one crash, and he has some fuzzy video, too. They poke around the desert and a strange abandoned tunnel at night and see cars/vans that may (or may not) be watching them.  Some believers say there is a hidden underground base in the area.  They talk to another witness who claims to have been burned from watching a UFO.  They talk to another pair of witnesses who have a fuzzy nighttime video of lights in the sky.  They set up for another night investigation near the airport, where strange (?) lights are seen.  Ryder goes poking around a remote section of the airport and apparently provokes a flyover by a military helicopter.  (They also spot the International Space Station zooming by.)  Researching later, they find the abandoned tunnel was used to build a hydro electric plant. Running the plates on the suspicious white van yields nothing (at least by Ryder).  Unfortunately, they fled from the other mysterious vehicle, rather than approaching it.  Tests on the items of the "burned" witness show nothing unusual.  Turns out the 144th wing of the Air National Guard is stationed in Fresno, but James thinks there are still UFOs here.  Ben & Ryder believe that the sightings are a combination of misidentified civilian and military aircraft.

After two shows, this series shows promise, though they need to stop looking for evidence (other than lights in the sky) at night, and start searching places during the day.  Too many of these shows feature 2 night-shot segments per episode, to no good end.  Apparently, this is going to be one of them.

CHASING UFOS - Texas is for Sightings

NatGeo - Original Air Date: 6/29/12

Radiation scientist Ben McGee, tech and reconnaissance expert Erin Ryder ("Ryder" from Destination Truth), and UFOlogist James Fox form the team in this new UFO-hunting show.  The first episode starts in Stephenville, Texas, where they're investigating a (pretty fuzzy-looking) police officer's video showing a light in the sky.  Ryder describes herself as "Bad Cop," James as "Good Cop," and Ben declares that he's the "Other Bad Cop," which gives me initial hope this show may be more skeptical than the usual UFO shows -- where belief in aliens seems too often to be the first option.  The program features the usual witness interviews and re-creations (sadly including CGI UFOs -- though somewhat more sedate ones than are often depicted in shows like this), as well as artists' renditions, town-hall meetings (like Finding Bigfoot) and, of course, blurry videos of lights in a dark sky.  A 2008 video of a string of lights seems to correspond with many of the town hall reports, though it looks like military flares to me.  The team heads out into the countryside with a witness in tow to see what they can see (& film), and they all do the traditional "night investigation," tromping around in the dark.  They see a "mysterious" light; we'll see if they follow up.  (They don't.)

Then they talk to an ex-military man, Jonathan Alexander, who supposedly investigated UFOs and believes scientists should be able to study them openly.  He thinks something is there, but what it may be is a different question.  He does believe that mass hysteria plays a role in sightings, but the thinks Stephenville has a number of high-quality witnesses.  Then they set up an overflight by small planes in formation, which makes the aircraft look -- even in the day -- like one single object, but the planes are not silent at 4000 feet (as the UFOs are reported to be).  Then the team looks at a broad daylight saucer video from 3 months after the 2008 mass sighting.  The team is suspicious; it looks too good to be true.  James thinks the witness is credible.  Maybe, but I have issue with the fact that the show is giving us only teasing clips, not enough for context of the video(s) in question: How did it start?  How did it end?  Would you, as a witness, stop filming what's clearly a flying saucer after a few minutes?  Did the video go until the the thing vanished?  They don't say and don't show us.

Next up, another witness who observed (though a gunsight) a craft above him large enough to "land an aircraft on," and then some local library research.  An 1891 newspaper article describes lights in the sky followed by an object/meteor exploding 300 feet in the sky showering the area with bits of metal that set small fires.  So they go looking for evidence of that crash/explosion -- at night, which makes no sense.  (But all these shows seem to need 2 night investigations.)  And they spot something that looks like a flying saucer.  But are they being punk'd?  Maybe after the break, they'll tell us... But they don't.  This part of the episode reveals that Ryder is a "skeliver" -- a skeptic and a believer combined, so the team has one believer, one skeptic, and one in between (though she seems to be leaning toward believer to me).  And that's how this episode shakes out, with all of our team still where they started: one convinced, on unconvinced, and one leaning toward convinced.

Overall, not a bad show.  It's basically Hunting Bigfoot with UFOs, and has many of the same issues/flaws.  The cast is likable, but the science not rigorous enough. I'd have liked to know if they checked flight patterns and military records for any of the sightings.  And, as I said at the top, I wanted to see all the videos in context, with start and stop points (you can time lapse the boring parts).

Friday, June 29, 2012

FACT OR FAKED: Into the Vortex; Tavern Shapeshifter

SyFy - Original Air Date: 6/19/2012

Dismissed out of hand:  Portland Trailblazing UFOs: Lights flying fast in the sky are merely CGI trickery (watch how it passes the trees & power lines).  Champ 2.0: Might be humps of a sea monster in Lake Champlain, but is more likely just waves on the water.  Sky Ribbon: Not a shapeshifter or UFOs, merely a flock of bats.

Cases taken up this week:
Into the Vortex:  The Oregon Vortex... Laws of physics appear broken at this longstanding tourist trap, where people seem to change sizes and things seem to roll uphill.  Oddly, as in the site's legend, the team's horses don't want to enter the area.  Then our heroes set up a black background to check if the height change is a perspective illusion.  (But I think they've failed to take into account uneven ground, and platforms at uneven levels -- even though the platforms may be nearly level.  Many small variations can lead to large effects.)  Brooms standing?  The sloped floor does it.  Ball rolling uphill? Optical illusion; it's really downhill.  The "Mystery House" is built to confuse human senses & make people dizzy.  But, they do a pendulum test to see if there's some quirk of gravity or magnetism. The pendulum does strange things.  But rumor says that magnets are buried around the site, and though the team gets some hits on metal detectors, the site will not let them dig.  "It's like an interactive magic show," Austin concludes, "all optical illusions."

My family has been to one of these sites, The Mystery Spot, in Upper Michigan numerous times, and -- while we love it -- we know it's all perspective, suggestion, and illusion.  Fun until you figure it out, though, and even after that if you like the "joke."  You'd be surprised how many people are completely fooled.  It's a pretty cool illusion.  And the "vortex" in the show has pretty much the same "legend" as the Spot we've visited.  I think these may have been some kind of 1930-50s franchise or something, dotted across the US.  Oregon, California, Michigan, etc.  They're all so alike -- right down to the patter -- it can't be coincidence.  Perhaps it was just one guy moving across the US, building them as he went. Is there one near you?

Tavern Shapeshifter: An amorphous shape caught on video that seems to sit in a bar booth and then disappear.  Bug on the lens?  They don't think it matches, but I think they're using the wrong bug too far from the lens.  Fabric hoax?  Too mechanical and defined.  Fog cloud & fan?  Close, but too obviously foggy.  Ghost hunt time.  (Ugh!)  And they get odd camera and equipment malfunctions that Bill likes but seem to prove nothing to me.  Turns out the "shapeshifter" actually was a bug on a lens with some all-too-human pareidolia -- which they figure out by more careful video analysis.  I'm not sure why they took this case, as they had another, similar one (at a gas station) just a few weeks ago.  But, apparently, we need a "ghost" nearly every week.

Another overall good show in a good season. Even when some weird stuff happens, the FoF team is now more likely to explain the hoax or illusion, a trend I hope continues in coming years -- though I'd rather never see another ghost hunt on this show again.

FACT OR FAKED: Graveyard Lighting: Truck Stop Terror

SyFy - Original Air Date: 6/12/12

We all know the show's format by now, so I'll try to just hit the highlights.  Dismissed out of Hand: Lafayette Poltergeist - mono-filament line, pulling a chair & fridge door. Lowell Lights - A triangle of lights in the night sky, very similar to other things they've worked on. Real?  Uncertain.  Maybe later.  Alaskan Alien Light: A rare light pillar natural phenomenon.

This Week's Cases:  
Truckstop Terror: Mist/apparition in a bathroom, and a blue apparition on video. Hair on the lens? Plausible, close match. Mist from automatic air freshener?  Great match, too. On to the blue, floating entity.  Reflected car headlight? Barely visible.  Human with flashlight?  Blue flares but no figure, and laser is too bright.  Hoax reflection on Plexiglas?  Very close.  But let's ghost hunt. Bumping noises and an EVP that they claim says "Get out of here," but I'm not convinced.  So, some mistaken identity photos and hoaxes, but maybe haunted.

Graveyard Lightning Photos of light trails, mist, and lighting in a cemetery.  Plasma/ball lighting? No EMF fields to support that theory.  Accidental flashlight exposure "light painting?"  Good match for some photos. Hoaxed with neon lights? Too defined, first seemed easier and just as good.  What's the yellow mist?  Stirred up dust invisible except in flash? Close match.  But what about the man "catching lighting" photo?  They hook up a Tesla coil, and that plus some light painting is a great match.  Hoaxed, one and all -- though some say it might be camera & operator error.

Another good show (despite the ghost hunt) in a very good season of this series.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

UFOs Best Evidence Caught on Tape 2

Biography Channel (though probably aired somewhere else originally) - Original Air Date: Unknown

The show starts with an object they admit is likely just a lighted sky sculpture (from a nearby show) and then goes downhill from there.  They have just enough "analysis" (some of it by decent sources) to make you think they've examined the rest of the "evidence" and found it credible.  They haven't.  This show and its videos are pure bullshit.  They don't even bother to point out the obvious reflections of a light on glass, calling it rather "a monster UFO near the World Trade Center," and they then wonder why no one seems to remark on it in the video.  Because it's a reflection, dipshits.  And the rest of the evidence is just as much crap.  Jonathan Frakes should be ashamed for narrating this piece of shit.  Seldom have I felt so thoroughly bamboozled by a UFO show, and there area lot of bullshit UFO shows out there.  There is nothing to learn here, nothing at all.  Don't waste your time on this.  Let my suffering be an example to you.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

FACT OR FAKED: Florida Woodland UFO; Black Forest Entity

SyFy - Orignal Air Date: 6/5/2012

After two very strong shows, the team is back, and views but does not investigate: New Year's Eve Alien, in which an "alien" face" appears in the side of a frame of a fireworks show.  The crew declares it a likely puppet hoax.  Couch Cushion Casper seems to show strange mist, couch cushions being indented by invisible legs, and objects flying off a table.  But Austin points out the rest of the cushion doesn't move, therefore, it's CGI, wires, and other hoax gimmicks.  Oahu UFO is merely reflections in a car window though which the video was shot.

Florida Woodland UFO shows 3 mysterious lights moving through the trees in a swampy area.  The team goes to the sighting area and tests ATVs (not large/close enough), flares (not close enough together; too difficult to control), and a fan-boat with lights.  The boat is a very close match, though the fan-boat made noise, and the witness claimed to have heard none.  Still, they conclude the video is most likely a boat.  Then the team sets up cameras for a night investigation in this UFO hot spot.  Devin spots some "lights" on the IR that then mysteriously vanish.  They then spot a mysterious light in the woods, and a mysterious flying light on their main full-spectrum camera.  They're not sure what either light is, but I wish they'd investigate whether a bird or bat could cause that kind of blip on the main camera.  Still, they've done a good job explaining the original video.

Black Forest Entity shows strange snaky "lights" flying through the woods near a supposedly haunted house, and then a strange glowing orb-like thing within that "bursts." The Lee family, which owns the place, is moving out, so this may be the last investigation of their house.  Though it's winter, the team sets up a simulated "firefly," which turns out to be a match for the "spirit entities" flying through the woods.  (What a shock. Another "investigator" that knows zip about the camera s/he's using.)  The second video seems most likely a hoax, so they set up a bubble-blower and fill the bubbles with dry ice mist.  (They burst the bubbles with a pellet gun.)  But their orbs are actually better looking than the original. Could it be a lens flare from a sparkler, a lighter, or something else hot?  Better, but still not quite right.  (Honestly, though, the original looks like some kind of light bulb to me, and whatever it is seems clearly hand held in its motion.)  So, they set up a ghost hunt to see if they can find a supernatural explanation.  They catch a strange flash of light in the attic and accompanying pop on the audio recorder, and Ben gets knocked to the floor by a mysterious force. They call the case "fact," and I believe they had strange things happen, but I remain unconvinced by the original videos.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

FACT OR FAKED: Glowing Gargoyle; Phantom Feline

Syfy - Original Air Date: 5/29/2012

The videos not chosen for investigation this week are: Prosperity School Apparition which shows a mysterious shadow moving across a wall at the far end of a video camera, but there's not enough evidence to warrant the team investigating at the moment.  Brazillian Bronze Spheres shows a light in the daytime sky that splits into 3 and hovers in the sky.  But Ben has spotted a CG jump cut in his own video, and throws it out.  Anti-Gravity Sphere is merely a CGI film project.

Glowing Gargoyle is a night-vision video that seems to show a gargoyle-like creature atop a children's playground castle, before the creature leaps off into the darkness.  The team even picks up Josh Gates, from Destination Truth, to go to England and investigate with them.  Could it be someone in a costume (for live-action role-playing, LARP, or other cosplay)?  Devin dresses up as a knight and jumps off the castle, but doesn't look animal-like enough.  So, they try with an actual lemur, but he looks too small, and he doesn't drop off camera fast enough.  So, they build a puppet that they can then pull up fast and then down faster, but it doesn't feel very organic.  Then they do a night investigation, but turn up neither monsters nor ghosts.  With no actual evidence of creatures, and with "supernatural" falling speed, the team concludes the monster is a CGI hoax.

Phantom Feline shows a cat-like ghostly shape streaking past a stationary video camera at a supposedly haunted location.  The team tries an actual cat under the IR camera, but he's a bit too clear and not transparent enough.  So, they try a white-painted RC Car, but it's still not transparent enough.  On to reflected car headlights, which don't trace the right path across the room. Then Bill suggests that maybe the shape is a light from the flashlights of investigating ghost hunters, and ... Bingo! It looks amazingly like the video (right down to the tail).  So, another strong 2 investigations for team Fact or Faked.  (And another item convincing me that ghost hunting teams do not control their lights or other techniques and evidence enough.)

FACT OR FAKED: Reptile Rampage; Gasoline Ghoul

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/22/2012

Videos not investigated: Speakesy Specter in which a weird shape seems to enter a paranormal investigator's body, but it's just a foreground-background camera focus issue.  (When will ghost-hunting groups actually learn the specs of their cameras?)  Forest Fire Alien seems to show an alien reaching out from behind a tree beyond a campfire--but it's easy CGI work. NASA Triangle UFO is merely a reflection of Venus within the telescope's optics.

Reptile Rampage posits that a 7' red-eyed lizard man is attacking cars in South Carolina. Alligator bites are one possibility, but the team doesn't see upper-lower bite marks. Stray (or deliberate) bullets? The holes don't look gnawed enough, and no one heard gunfire. Vandals with power tools? Results are similar to the effects, but what about the witnesses who claim to have seen the creature? The team dresses Ben as a lizard man and posts a video online to test how people respond. The video does bring out believers, and the reactions convince the team that the whole thing is likely a hoax/prank that has since snowballed through local believers.

Gasoline Ghoul seems to show a blue "spectral" shape on a gas station surveillance camera. Plasma formation? EMF & radiation sweeps turns up nothing. Trash in the wind? Too sharp and clear in the video; the original "ghoul" is fuzzy. Laser or flashlight flare? That just wipes out the camera, but with plexiglas near the camera, it looks better--though you can see the camera's reflection. The solution?  A bug on the camera lens.  Though the bug is not blue, it reflects blue from the station's blue paint job and looks like an exact match.  Two cases up, two solved.  A great job of scientific investigation for Fact or Faked this week!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

FACT OR FAKED: Battleship; UFO

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/15/2012

Videos not chosen to investigate this week include: Irish Triangle which shows a delta-shaped craft (or lights) in the night sky over supposedly Ireland, but it was really part of a UFO contest held in North Carolina; the craft was a model built by Jeff Wilson and won first prize.  Basement Shadow Man shows a shape moving from right to left across a night shot camera view of a basement.  Bill and Austin think it's just investigator shadows, and I tend to agree.  The in-break fake for this week is: Solar UFO, which seems to show fast solar eruptions supposedly portending the Mayan end of the world.  But it's only a normal coronal mass ejection, with time-lapse photography making it look like its happening much faster than it really is.

Battleship Ghost starts with a photo that seems to show a spectral figure pointing (but it looks like bad photography to me), and a video with a shadow moving in the darkness (more bad video).  But the video comes from a friend of Ben's, so half the team goes to the U.S.S. North Carolina to investigate.  They start to try to replicate the video using flashlights & shadows, and immediately one of their camera falls and breaks mysteriously.  Despite this, they use a flashlight reflection off the ceiling to create the "ghostly" shadow.  (Yes, it was bad video and lack of investigation scene control, a common ghost hunting problem, IMHO.  These people want to find ghosts so badly, they're literally jumping at shadows.)  So, the team moves on  to the stiff photo.  They try photographing fog with motion blur, but that doesn't give them the "skeletal" figure.  So they try a real skeleton, but it doesn't work either.  Must be time for a ghost hunt.  But wait!  Devin realizes that when one of the ship's guns is turned the right way, it makes the shape of the "ghost" in the picture.  (I thought I saw gun turrets in that photo.) Another nice catch for Devin, who's becoming the King of Pareidolia Spotters.  Again, though, this points out the lack of scientific rigor in much of the ghost hunting community.  These are simple, bad photography practices, folks, creating false evidence of "ghosts."  Good catches for the Fact or Faked crew.  But they still do a ghost hunt anyway.  And they hear strange sounds and have more equipment knocked over and one camera mysteriously turned while filming.  Haunted, they think.  I think: More science needed.

Scouting UFO seems to show a craft hovering over a Michigan construction site, scanning the ground with searchlights.  Could it be the mythical TR3B magnetic propulsion Air Force craft?  First, they try replicating the video with a crop duster (which has 3 lights) spraying mist.  But neither the shape nor the speed or sound match.  Next, they try an aerial camera drone with a light mounted where the camera should be.  The drone looks similar, but too small and near for the video.  So, they theorize it could be a crane moving a lighted load, with the boom framed out of camera.  They create an aluminum truss with lights on either end and a spotlight in the middle and haul it up into the air, keeping the crane arm out of camera.  Very close, though not perfect.  Could it be CGI augmented?  Likely, since the witness dodged the team's "Did you create a hoax?" question -- responding, in almost the same way that "Johnathan Reed" did on the Alien Attacker show.  "Layered Voice Analysis" (which I'm still not sure I believe in) indicates deception, but my bullshit detector was already on high alert.

So, a lot of good investigating this week for the Fact or Faked crew.  (And this season, for that matter.)   But I'd rather they dropped the ghost hunts.

FACT OR FAKED: Pride House Specter; Bluegrass Bigfoot

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/8/2012

The cases passed over this week are: "Chino UFO" which shows an object in the sky with flashing lights, possibly a balloon with LEDs.  "Russian UFO Convoy" seems to show metallic saucers being transported on a military convoy, but they're only military hazardous waste container lids (up to 18' wide).  The in-break fake is: "NASA Tether UFO," which seems to show UFOs flying near the space shuttle, but it's just ice particles and an out of focus camera.  (Stop with the conspiracies, already!)

Pride House Specter seems to show a smoky figure descending a stairway in what is supposedly the most haunted house in Texas.  The photo was taken by a paranormal investigator who was working on his own (rather than with his group) one morning.  While that circumstance seems suspicious on its face to me, the crew checks out some non-fake possibilities. A time exposure of Austin in a track suit with dark shoes looks similar (and would look better if he were going up the stairs, rather than down), but it's not smoky enough.  So, they drop fake Christmas show (cotton) in front of the camera.  That, also, is close, but not quite right.  So they set up a projected image.  Again, good but not smoky.  Now, at this point, I would try some kind of simple double exposure or painted glass in front of the camera trick, but -- because there must be a ghost hunt every week on the show -- that's what the crew does.  They get even more "odd" noises and effects than usual, and a bathroom door even opens on its own (with Bill in the room).  Air pressure? Austin doesn't think so, but I've lived in old houses, and sometimes loose floorboards can cause door frames to warp and unlatch, so I'm not impressed.  They also have a thermal "hand print" on that same door (camera crew?) and a strange (human-like) whistling that can't be explained by local sounds.  At this point, I kindof suspect rigging (anyone remember the rigged "haunted" bar in Ghost Hunters?), but sadly, this is where the investigation ends. Truly paranormal?  You'd need a lot more time and good science to find out.

Bluegrass Bigfoot is two pieces of evidence: a photo of a hulking shape that looks like a gorilla crouched in foliage, and a video of a man-ape walking through the woods.  A man in the bushes isn't a match for the hulk, but a hawk landing closer by matches for a perfect misidentification.  (As also reported in MonsterQuest: Hillbilly Beast.)  Moving on, they put Ben in a bigfoot suit and try to match the video.  It's close, but he's still too human.  So then they try a huge bigfoot marionette; closer, but it walks like a drunken sailor.  So, they go for what was my first thought: CGI -- and with a little bit of animation and compositing, that's a perfect match.  Yes, you could have done this at home with Poser or DAZ Studio.  Fake busted!

FACT OR FAKED: Vanishing Victim; Sky Serpent

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/1/2012

Cases not tackled this week include: "Zozo the Raven Spirit" which seems to show a raven vanishing in mid flight. Is it a demon? More likely a publicity stunt for the movie being made where it was shot.  "Aloha Alien" shows a light falling from the sky.  When the photographer pursued it, he filmed a "creature" in the woods.  But it all looks like CGI to the crew.  The in-break fake (between commercials) is "Nibiru Second Sun" which shows a globe floating just above the sun.  Is it the mythical planet of Nibiru, portending the end of the world?  Nope, just a lens flare -- and seriously stupid believers, apparently.

"Vanishing Victim" seems to show a woman disappearing from beneath a sheet while sleeping only to re-emerge 13 minutes later.  Is this a true alien abduction?  The woman believes she has been abducted by aliens, and her husband supposedly set up the camera for security.  The couple seems sincere, and the crew can't figure out why someone would fake something like this.  (I guess they've never heard of various medical conditions in which people cause themselves, or others, harm to gain attention--like Munchhausen-by-proxy.)  The crew tests whether the woman could have rolled out of bed accidentally; it doesn't look the same.  Figuring it might be a hoax, they then try to replicate it with an air-filled bladder, but it doesn't deflate fast enough.  So, they cut a hole in the bed and use a lift to make their subject vanish and then reappear.  Pretty perfect match, and only their compassion for these people keeps them from (IMO) declaring this case a hoax.  Because, in fact, the vanishing sleeper looks like a fairly standard magician's trick to me, and I think you could do it without the hydraulic lift.  Sadly, the crew then does a "ghost hunt" to see if there are alien presences.  Are there EVPs?  Who cares. This is not science, and I wish they'd stop doing it.  Yet, every week we get a ghost hunt.  An outside video analyst thinks the whole thing might be an optical illusion caused by the woman rolling next to her husband.

"Sky Serpent" seems to show a flaming, serpentine UFO streaking through the English sky.  The crew tries to replicate it with kites and fiber-optic ribbons, but the results look like kites.  Next they try an RC plane with flares, which looks closer, but still too near to the camera; you can see the plane.  So, they get some local stunt pilots, and with actual planes and bigger flares, they get a perfect match.  And, as it turns out, there was an air show nearby the day the film was taken.  Mystery solved.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

FACT OR FAKED: Bay Area Hysteria; Jersey Shore

SyFy - Original Air Date: 4/23/12

The videos not chosen for investigation this week are: "Dark Hooded Figure" looks to be merely a person in a cloak.  "High School Haunt" claims to have an apparition manifesting, but there isn't enough info to be sure the photos are not just double-exposure fakes.  Additionally, "High School Spirit" proves to be the proverbial bug on the lens.

The Bodega Bay UFO causing the "Bay Area Hysteria" is a mysterious, noiseless light hovering over the water. The team tries a rescue helicopter with a spotlight, but it's too high and too noisy.  They then try a movie light balloon, which is close, but still too high.  Finally, they hit on the idea of a fishing (crab) boat with very bright lights.  That and the foggy conditions of the original prove a match, and an investigation well done.

The second team goes to a the Paramount Theater on the "Jersey Shore Haunting" to investigate a mysterious cold "apparition" seen on a FLIR camera.  They try a CO2 fire extinguisher spray, but don't get a similar shape.  Then they try a person in a "cold blanket," which is closer, but not quite.  Lanisha then suggests that it could merely be a problem with the equipment (which we know was malfunctioning, as it didn't record the image; we have only picture of that monitor image).  Bingo!  The focal length on the original camera was not suited to the length of the hallway, which creates a human-appearing artifact in the center of the frame.  In reality, it was just a cold door at the far end of the hall.  Ghost mystery solved!

But then, of course, we have to do a traditional ghost hunt.  Of course the team hears strange noises, as in all such shows, and something mysterious breaks up their laser grid.  But is that proof of anything?  Only that it seems these goofy hunts seem necessary to keep the show's "believer" audience.  After two good investigations and solutions, it's sad to hear the team declare the theater "haunted."

FACT OR FAKED: The Grim Sleeper; The Real Mr. Freeze

SyFy - Original Air Date: 4/16/12

The show kicks off its spring season and starts by not looking at: "Hawaii UFO," which shows a mysterious shape in the sky; the witnesses claimed their battery died a few minutes into an hour long sighting--which the crew finds suspicious.  More info needed.  "Himalayan Yeti" shows a human-like shape trudging through a snowy mountain pass.  But with no witness to interview, it's a no starter.  A video seeming to show a string of UFO lights, "Venitian UFO," proves to be merely lights on a ceiling painted to look like the sky.  Which leaves the first two cases of the new season.

"The Grim Sleeper" video seems to show a sleeping woman levitating out of bed.  The team builds a lever system to lift team member Lanisha by her leg. It looks good, but a bit wobbly.  Next they try a winch system, with similar results.  Finally, they build an overhead suspension system, "fly" her with wires, and remove the wires with special effects post-production work.  Perfect match, and evidence shows possible tampering with the original witness video.  And since the ceiling of the room was open (unfinished) when the original video was shot, that would have given perfect rafters to run wires from.  Plus, Layered Voice Analysis suggests the witness may be lying.  The team declares the video a hoax.

"The Real Mr. Freeze" is Wim Hof a.k.a. "The Iceman," a man who performs cold-related stunts, including immersing himself in ice and running a half-marathon barefoot in the Arctic circle.  But is this some kind of trick?  The team decides to experiment on themselves.  A fake ice immersion is easy enough, but they figure witnesses and volunteers at the event would have noticed.  After ten minutes running on an ice rink barefoot, Ben and Austin are suffering near frostbite on their feet.  They meet Hof, and Austin decides to do a side-by-side ice bath competition.  After a minute, Austin starts showing signs of stress.  After 20 minutes, Austin is in serious trouble, and his body shows up blue on their thermal cam - with an external body temperature of 40 degrees.  Wim's internal temperature remained 98 degrees throughout the test, and he actually appeared ... comfortable.  Clearly, Wim Hof is something a bit more than human, so far as resistance to cold.  "Paranormal" they say.

A promising start for this new season, with two serious investigations and two straightforward conclusions.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

FINDING BIGFOOT: Holy Cow, It's Bigfoot

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 3/11/2012

The crew goes to Utah and follows their usual routine of investigating a video (a shadowy figure, seen by firelight; smaller than Bobo and likely, therefore, a person ), doing a night investigation and camping out, talking to locals at a town-hall meeting and then individually, and concluding with a second night investigation.  The most interesting thing in this show is a howl they hear during their second night investigation.  It sure is strange (though it could be a person).  Sadly, this show never subjects its call tapes to examination by zoological experts.  Nor do we even get to hear skeptic Ranae's evaluation of the sound.  Again, another show with interesting witness stories, but -- aside from the "call" -- no solid evidence.

Monday, March 5, 2012

FINDING BIGFOOT: Hoosier Bigfoot

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 3/4/12

The crew heads to Indiana to check out a "creature" video & see the state's forestland.  Cliff notes that the film looks like a gorilla suit; Ranae notes it behaves like a human (hoaxer).  It'd be nice if one of these videographers would admit to hoaxing--but these folks won't even appear unblurred.  The group's recreation indicates that the thing was smaller than Bobo, thus probably a hoax, though the witness may not have been in on it.  The crew then heads south to do their usual investigations and town-hall meeting.

The rest of the show is taken up with the standard talking to witnesses and day/night investigations.  This time, the decide to set off some fireworks to attract "curious" squatches (and get coyotes instead).  Then they hear the usual "mysterious" sounds and knocks.  In the end, more stories but no proof.  Just another day at the Finding Bigfoot office.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

FINDING BIGFOOT: Best of Special

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 2/26/12

This show, staged at an Ohio meeting house filled with enthusiasts, recaps the "season" and shows previously unseen footage.  The audience also gets to ask questions -- some of which reveal that the crew is less positive of some "bigfoot" identifications than the show makes them out to be.  However, the crew is still divided between believers (Matt, Cliff, Bobo) and skeptic (Ranae).  The audience also seems skeptical -- which is refreshing -- and asks "How do you know...?" type questions.  (Though the answers tend to be "because we know" or "because of our experience" rather than hard evidence.)

Still, team members on both sides get to state their positions clearly without a lot of edits, which is nice.  And the show serves as a good recap and/or introduction to the show.  Haven't seen Finding Bigfoot before?  This might be a good place to start.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

FINDING BIGFOOT: Moonshine & Bigfoot

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 2/19/12

Into Kentucky for this show.  The video that starts the investigation shows two eyes shining in a night video.  (The "Kentucky eye shine" video.)   Ranae suggests an owl in a branch, though Matt thinks it's bigfoot.  (Bobo notes an owl is more likely.)  The show then follows the standard model: night investigation, camp out & do town hall, talk to witnesses, do a second night investigation.  And, of course, hear "strange" sounds and find nothing irrefutable.  The only things new in this show are the number of gunshots they hear during the first night investigation (coon hunters, apparently), the fact they visit Bobo's relatives (who are witnesses), and the use of a fake crying baby to try to lure the creatures out of the woods.  The show has become so predictable, that I wrote the "standard model" paragraph before actually watching the episode.

Make no mistake: this show is for believers, and -- despite the team's best efforts -- there's not a lot of scientific evidence to be found.   This show is for people who like hearing bigfoot stories.  It also performs some small service by providing skeptical explanations for popular bigfoot videos ... sometimes (with Ranae providing most of the skepticism).

It would be nice if they could hunker down in one of their "bigfoot hotspots" for a whole season or more and really do some science, but I'm afraid that would't make a compelling show every week.  The witness stories do make a compelling show, but it's well to remember: they're just stories.  Maybe someday, we'll get more.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

FINDING BIGFOOT: Virginia is for Bigfoot Lovers

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 2/12/12

The BFRO (Matt, Cliff, Bobo, & Ranae) head to VA to track down the Beast of Gung Hill (sp?) a.k.a. another very fuzzy video.  Could it be the elusive woodbooger?  Ranae thinks that the video, which shows a shape moving across a creek in front of an ATV is suspicious; the rest want to see the sighting spot.  So they hop some ATVs and head out into the woods for a recreation.  Bobo is smaller than the supposed "squatch," and I'm wishing for some of Fact or Faked's voice analysis on the witness. Ranae is skeptical, and even Cliff expresses some reservations. Time for the first night investigation of the week.  (Every week has two.)  Some "knocks" -- which I'm not convinced are squatch evidence at all -- but nothing else. So, Matt stays in the wild (one crew member does every week) and checks out some caves, which he believes might be bigfoot shelter during the winter.

The rest do the usual town hall meeting to dig up places to look for local sasquatch--and they get the usual interesting & compelling stories--from which they pick 3 to investigate further (as usual this season).  The first, a teen girl, Ranae is skeptical about. The second, near a waterfall, seems harder to explain, and the third witness is a former cop, who says he saw the thing at close range. Real?  Who knows.  But in tonight's investigation, they're going to try something new: they'll use a luminous dust to try to track anything taking their bait.  I'd think they might put up camera traps, too, but not tonight.  Twenty-four hours later, they check the bait, and discover some cool luminous raccoon tracks.  And, naturally, they hear strange woodland sounds--but no solid bigfoot evidence.

And I have to wonder, at this point, if I need to do such long reviews of this show.  The formula this season is clear: 1) investigate crappy probably-hoaxed video, 2) night investigation; nothing shows up, 3) camp out &/or talk to locals; hear interesting but unprovable stories, 4) second night investigation hearing spooky sounds, 5) Ranae disagrees with the rest about whether this proves anything (she says no; the rest, yes).  So, unless they do something really interesting -- like tonight's luminous dust -- maybe I should just say, "Same as last week. Nothing proven; a few things dis-proven."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

FINDING BIGFOOT: Buckeye Bigfoot

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 1/27/2012

Off to Ohio to hunt some squatch with Matt, Cliff, Bobo, and (the reason I watch) Ranae! The story starts, as often, with a pretty vague "bigfoot" video, where the beast seems to shake a tree.  The thing's bulky torso even impresses Ranea - though distance makes it little more than a dark blurry shape.  They talk to the father & son witnesses and find the fallen tree.  In a re-creation, the creature looks smaller than Bobo, which makes Ranae (and even Bobo) skeptical -- and the witness is no longer sure.  (Nice debunking job, guys!) Naturally, they do a night investigation, and for once hear a strange cry in return to one of their "squatch" calls.  Tonight's solo camp-out goes to Bobo (who says that cooking bacon attracts the beast), while the rest look for more witnesses at a town-hall meeting.  They get some interesting tales (and even a recording) and pick 3 to investigate.

The witness stories are intriguing, as always, but come without any actual proof. Plotting the sightings, the team decides to take their next hunt in the Salt Fork state park and do a "grid search" (with a line of people sweeping the area).  They find a strange stick structure, which Ranae suggests might be a flood remnant, but Bobo thinks is a squatch hunting blind.  Then they find a "heel" print -- according to Matt, though Ranae doubts it.  They do another night investigation, but turn up nothing substantial -- which, frankly, is the way a lot of these shows go.  If you're wanting to hear more "tales of bigfoot," tune in.  If you're looking for hard evidence, you, like Ranae, will have to keep looking.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

FINDING BIGFOOT: Canadian Bigfoot, eh?

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 1/22/12

Into the Canadian Rockies for Matt, Cliff, Bobo, and Ranae, to hunt "the most territorial bigfoot of all."  They start with a controversial video, showing a "bigfoot" hunching down behind a rock.  Bobo points out that the video, at 5 seconds long, seems likely a hoax. Why didn't they film longer? Ranae wonders.  Todd, the videographer, is controversial in the bigfoot community, too (possible hoaxer), but they want to talk to him. Todd says the original location is too dangerous to go to.  (Ranae's not buying it, and I'm wishing for Fact or Fake's voice analysis)  So they go some place similar to re-create the video.  Bobo thinks the thing is bigger than him; Ranae & Matt think if you put Bobo in a furry costume, he'd be a match.  (Yay, team!)  Matt suggests they need to check hoaxes (like this) to tell them from the real thing.

They do a night investigation in the area; no luck, so they go to meet some local Native Americans (First Nations, in Canada, I think).  The natives believe that bigfoot is real, and they do a ceremony to help the team in their hunt.  Matt does the lone camp out, this week (every week this season, someone does).  The rest of the team hold the usual town meeting and canvas witnesses.  The first story they check out seems credible, and not explainable by people or bears -- but, as always, it's just a story.  (Science needs more.)  The other encounters involve rock throwing and pissing(!) on a tent.  Again, compelling stories, but....  For their second night investigation, they bring in a mechanical deer, to use as a lure.  The make howls and hear some strange sounds back, but apparently don't catch anything usable on the parabolic mics.  (Either that, or I couldn't pick it out from the usual annoying soundtrack/sfx.)

In all, this seemed to be a more scientifically balanced show than the norm.  A trend I hope will continue in the future.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

FINDING BIGFOOT: Peeping Bigfoot

Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 1/15/11

The group goes to Minnesota to check out a recording of a supposed bigfoot howl and daylight sightings of a 10-foot-tall monster.  They meet with the audio recordist, who claims he's got more than wolves on his recordings.  (Ranae hears only wolves; I'm with her.)  Matt suggests that sasquatch disguise their calls to fit in with the local fauna.  (Really? I suppose they shape-change to fit in, too. Is there any evidence to the contrary believers can't explain away?)  Cliff has fun driving the crew to the recording site in a (tracked) amphibious vehicle, capable of mowing down small poplar trees.  They find broken trees (too tall for Cliff to have broken) which Matt thinks is some kind of territorial marking by sasquatch.  A night investigation leads to the usual strange sounds, and this time Bobo stays behind to investigate while the rest head off to do the usual town hall meeting.

In the packed meeting hall, nearly the whole audience raises their hands when Matt asks if anyone has ever seen a bigfoot. (Even I am impressed by the number of hands that go up.)  The usual compelling stories of sightings follow, which the group then maps.  The locations seem to cluster around the west fork of the Kettle River, so the BFRO team investigates.  They estimate the nurse-jogger witness' creature as 11' tall, which makes Ranae think it's misidentification of some kind.  Another witness claims a bigfoot, estimated at 9 feet tall, was peeking into the windows of a trailer.  Rejoining with Bobo (who's almost been eaten alive by mosquitoes), the group interviews a family who saw a 9-foot-tall bigfoot while riding their four-wheelers. Even Ranae is impressed ... but not convinced.  So, it's time for a second nighttime investigation along the aforementioned river gorge, featuring a car with a PA system call-blasting, in hopes of getting a response.  The team also makes knocks, and Matt thinks he hears something following them but -- Surprise! -- nothing shows up.  Nothing.  For all the witnesses, no evidence.  Again.

And and at this point, I feel it should be pointed out that stories are not proof.  People have been telling stories (and seeing strange things) since the beginnings of human history, and much of what our ancestors took to be "real," we find absurd today.  For instance, few people today believe in fairies, dragons, mermaids, or witches flying on brooms (Harry Potter notwithstanding).  Yet, just a short while back, otherwise sensible people believed in all of those things -- and they had the eyewitness stories to "prove" it.  This is why science doesn't take stories as fact.  It's fun to believe in such things, but liking a story doesn't make it real.  Happily, on this show, we have Ranae insisting on scientific proof, even if the rest of the crew wants to believe in fairy stories.


Animal Planet -- Original Air Date: 1/8/11

The BFRO team goes to Rhode Island, to prove that while the state may be small, it can still have Bigfoot.  They're surprised that Rhode Island has so much trackless forest (Hint: All of New England does.), and they've come to check out some supposed footage.  Most of the team thinks the blurry object in the film could be sasquatch, but Ranae (wisely) points out that the story behind this (footage for documentary) is fishy.  Plus, the blurry image could be someone in a coat.  "Why do you have to think it's a bigfoot?" Ranae asks.  Why, indeed?  A recreation indicates the "figure" is smaller than Bobo, and to me it looks like it could even be a shadow of a tree, though a person in a hoodie seems more likely than Bobo's juvenile sasquatch suggestion.  They do a night hunt complete with calling; coyotes reply, and they hear mysterious squatchy "knocks."  This time, they leave Cliff behind in the woods to look around more while the rest go and hear the usual interesting stories from local folks.  (Though the team is surprised that Rhode Island has so many stories, I guess 'cause the state is so small.)

This time, one of the witnesses even has a actual track (cut from the dirt) and a cast of what he found, though he didn't actually see what made the prints.  Ranae recreates the print's stride, and suggests that the print may have been someone in those barefoot/glove jogging shoes. Naturally, Matt and Bobo still believe it was a squatch.  Cliff, meanwhile, finds animal tracks and hears barn owls (which he readily identifies; points for that). Joining back up, the group decides to do a night hunt trying to flush any animals toward Ranae, who's observing from a tree stand.  But aside from small fauna, they turn up nothing.  Bobo, of course, thinks he heard something and declares Rhode Island "Squatchy as hell."  Well, maybe if Hell has lots of stories by no actual sasquatch.  Sorry, guys, blurry footage, colorful stories, and no actual evidence do not a bigfoot make.


Animal Planet - Original Air Date: 1/1/12

Matt, Cliff, Bobo, and (most importantly) Ranae are back for another season of looking for (and probably not finding) bigfoot.  This show starts with a shadowy video (from New York state) of something apparently swinging in a tree, perhaps, they suppose, a baby bigfoot.  It looks like a jumping jack doll to me -- or maybe some kind of pet monkey, but when good video is thin, I guess you've gotta follow every lead you can.  Ranae (the skeptic) points out that with an image this small and grainy, it's hard to tease any reliable data from it.  Cliff believes that the "baby" figure jumps from the shoulder of a larger figure into the tree. This seems to say "handler" to me, though the group thinks it's a parent sasquatch.  So, they go talk to the witnesses, check the scene, and all the usual stuff.  Comparison on location shows the creature to be only 1/3 of Cliff's size.  Suggestion of a gibbon seems more sensible, but Bobo thinks it's a baby "squatch."  So they set up surveillance & do a night hunt, and hear "knocks" which to most of them is an indication that bigfoots are ... afoot.  Matt & Ranae find a deserted house, and Matt wants to see if there is a mattress a bigfoot might have lain on to get out of the cold.  (Really.)

This year, they're apparently leaving people in the field to do further investigations, so Ranae stays behind to see if she can find anything that will make her a believer.  The rest go talk to locals, to hear about experiences in the area.  A local zoologist points out that these woods are big and could contain unknown animals.  Ranae sees deer but no squatch. Cliff interviews someone whose tent was attacked by something large, possibly sasquatch, and Matt talks to a witness who saw one in the road -- maybe.  Matt theorizes that the bigfoot travel along the Appalachian Trail.  The group does a hunt along the Trail, this time with a borrowed baboon, hoping to use the animal to lure in the sasquatch.  As usual in night hunts, they hear strange sounds, but ... big surprise, find no actual bigfoot.  Which, I suspect will be a continuing trend this season.  (As it was last season.)