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.