A Scam of Ghostly Proportions

by Melissa Minners

            I have a problem with some of the “paranormal activity” shows on television today.  I don’t mind watching certain shows that tell tales of possible paranormal events experienced by people in a particular area.  You know the shows I’m talking about – they’ll show someone who “lived through it” and conduct a re-enactment of what was experienced.  I enjoy these shows because they leave the issue of whether you believe the event took place or that the area is haunted open.  The person who experienced the event believes in what they saw, but the decision as to whether you believe it actually happened is left up to you and your beliefs.

            But some of these “paranormal activity” shows are downright annoying.  The shows I take exception with are the ones in which the people on the show try to prove that paranormal activity exists.  I saw one such show in which the “expert” stated that light spots found in a photo that his team had taken (or globes, as he described them) were actually signs of paranormal activity.  According to him, the spots were caused by a spirit’s presence.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I take a lot of pictures, so I have seen some of these spots on occasion, especially when the photos are taken in dark areas.  They are caused when dust motes in the air reflect the light from the camera’s flash.

            One of my friends often watches a show called Ghost Hunters starring TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society).  According to the people of TAPS, their job is to either prove or debunk claims of paranormal activity.  I’ve watched this show a few times.  I have yet to see an episode in which the members of TAPS definitively proclaim that there is absolutely no sign of paranormal activity present.  They usually say something like – we can’t say for certain that the place is haunted, but there may be some signs of paranormal activity. 

            The folks from TAPS use cameras, sound capturing devices, temperature gauges, etc. to check for signs of paranormal activity.  Spikes in temperature (high or low), electromagnetic spikes, etc. are used as evidence in proving the existence, or lack thereof, of anything paranormal.  Maybe this stuff does work.  I’m not an expert.  However, I don’t think the folks at TAPS are either.  On most of the episodes I have seen, at least one or more of the team conducting their investigations say – I definitely feel something here – or – nothing so far…oh, wait…oh yeah, definitely something here!

            Okay, maybe they do feel something – who am I to say, right?  I’ve experienced enough strange things in my life that simply can’t be explained away.  I can’t completely discount the presence of “spirits”.  However, one particular episode of this show proved to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that all the people of TAPS are doing is putting on a show.

            Eastern State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania has long been the subject of discussion when it comes to paranormal experiences. The prison’s history spans back to the early 1800’s and is filled with tales of the strict rules, harsh punishments (some would say torture), and a high abundance of mental illness suffered by the many prisoners who stayed there (possible due to their stay there).  Over the years, there have been several reports of strange sightings, smells, noises, etc. reported by people who have worked in, been incarcerated in, or toured the prison.  Even high profile prisoner Al Capone was said to have seen a ghost while staying incarcerated at Eastern State Penitentiary. 

            TAPS took on Eastern State Penitentiary on two separate episodes.  During one episode, they supposedly captured an apparition coming toward one of their cameras.  They showed the footage of this visual capture several times on their second episode.  My friend truly believed that the black shape approaching the camera was an apparition, until I pointed out a couple of observations I had made after seeing the footage several times.  The apparition footage always stopped at the same point.  The apparition never completed its approach toward the camera – the footage just stopped.  Why?  I pointed out that you could see dust particles being blown toward the camera throughout the footage.  Thus, it was obvious that there was a wind blowing toward the camera.  Then I pointed out the fact that as this black shape approached the camera, the lower left corner appeared to lift, revealing something that looked like a leg, and then the footage stopped.  The more they showed the footage, the clearer it became that someone, wearing a black covering had been walking toward the camera.  As they got closer, the strong wind, as evident through the speed with which the particles were being hurled through the air, lifted a corner of the black covering.  And of course, that’s where the footage ends, leading one to believe that the TAPS folks edited out the rest of the footage to cover up any further revelations.

            I also noticed something strange when one of the TAPS team attempted to get electromagnetic readings in one area of the prison.  The instrument he was using was designed to emit a noise each when it sensed high electromagnetic activity.  When he began his sweep of the area, the TAPS team member held the instrument extended in front of him.  We heard nothing, but then, suddenly there was noise.  To punctuate what had just happened, the team member passed the instrument over the area numerous times.  As I watched this being done I began to notice a pattern.  Every time he would pass the instrument over a certain spot, he would place his thumb on the center of the instrument’s handle and the noise would sound.  Pass over to another part, the thumb would be removed and there would be no sound.  Back to the same spot, the thumb is back on the handle and there is noise.  Move past it and the thumb comes off and the noise is gone.  Hmmm.

            Now here’s the thing – I have nothing against shows that discuss the paranormal.  People want to believe there is something after death; that maybe lost loved ones are still watching over them or that those who died too soon still occupy this world in one form or another.  Some people just enjoy the spookiness of the tales.  I have no problem with that.  But shows like TAPS prey on the vulnerable and count on the notion that their audience is gullible enough to believe the carefully contrived audio and video trickery that they present as true evidence.  The sad thing is that many members of the viewing audience will fall for this stuff and the creators of these shows will profit from that.

            My message to you, the viewer: Pay close attention to these shows and you will discover that they are not always on the up and up.  My message to the creators of such shows: Stop making victims of people with beliefs in the paranormal.


A very special thanks to http://www.hellasmultimedia.com/webimages/ for the graphic art image used in this story.


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