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.

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