Archive for September, 2010

“Celebrity” Ghost Hunt

Posted in Commentary, Investigations, Locations, News with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 30, 2010 by S. P.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

I just received an announcement from a ghost walk operator advertising “special” pricing for a “ghost hunt” with a TV ghost-show “celebrity.”  Yes, for the low, low price of $150 (normally $250, so we’re told), you and forty-nine complete strangers get the “opportunity of a lifetime” to “ghost hunt” in a semi-well known location.

I’ve visited the location in question.  I know for a fact any sort of serious investigation of the location would accommodate no more than four to six – maybe eight – people at the most.  When I visited this location during its normal operating hours, less than fifty people we present – and that didn’t exactly make it empty!  I simply cannot fathom fifty people milling around, “ghost hunting” at this location at one time.

As I’ve said before in regards paranormal “certification” and “degrees,” people are welcome to spend their hard-earned money however they see fit.  Yet, I think it’s extremely disingenuous of promoters to bill events such as this as an “investigation.”  At the most, it’s a group tour of an interesting location.  Anyone who attends events such as these and believes he or she is conducting actual paranormal research is deluding him- or herself.

My advice: if you’re interested serious paranormal research, skip the “celebrity ghost hunts” and instead invest your $150 in quality books which will give you a firm foundation in the subject.  Then visit locations with your own small group for the low, low cost of nothing!

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

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Ghost Apps

Posted in Commentary, Equipment, Investigations, Photography with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 20, 2010 by S. P.

Ghost Capture iPhone App

Stupid is as stupid does.  So says Forrest Gump.

For anyone not aware by now, a number of apps exist for the iPhone (and I imagine other smart phones as well) which insert “ghosts” into photographs taken with the device.  One version of this app allows the user to choose from among a number of “ghost” images to insert into photos, position them as the user sees fit, including the ability to adjust transparency of the “ghost.”

It’s a sad reflection on the state of the so-called paranormal community today that such apps exist and that so many are now posting photos created with these apps as authentic.  I don’t have a problem so much with the apps themselves.  My issue is the number of “paranormal investigators” unquestioningly accepting photos produced with these apps as genuine.  The believers and thrill seekers so want ghost photos on demand, it was given them and now they’re tripping over themselves to post these “authentic,” “un-tampered” photos online.

When you start seeing a plethora of “ghost” photos which seem just “too good” and the exact same “ghosts” start popping up around the world, that should tell you something.  Apparently for many, it doesn’t.

Instead of spending time watching TV, then going out playing “Ghost Adventures,” more people should be breaking open a book and actually learning about what it is in which they claim belief.  Surprisingly, they’d find reality has almost nothing to do with TV.

Is it real or is it iPhone? (Photo: Author's Collection)

There is so little going on today which constitutes actual, valid research, it’s embarrassingly pathetic.  Would you consider a surgeon competent who only wants to cut people open, but spends no time studying the craft of medicine?  Sadly, I believe many of the “thrill seekers” would.

I’m interested in serious paranormal research in the vein of Houdini or Fr. Herbert Thurston.  I have no time for the fakers, charlatans, believers, thrill seekers and pseudo-scientists (most of whom base their “scientific” knowledge on a GED-level education).  If this bothers you, most likely because you fall into one of these camps, good!  It’s time to either get serious or get out.  Think of this as a call to action to start taking what you claim belief in seriously by coupling your belief with the light provided by reason.

In reality, the number of possible authentic photos showing spirit apparitions can be counted on one hand.   There are very, very few of these photos which defy all logical explanation.  Yet for the self-styled “paranormal experts,” this matters not a lick as they plaster the internet with “authentic,” “un-tampered” ghost photos.

On the bright side, at least it’s not more “orb” photos…

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

“Strange” Lights over SWFL Update

Posted in Locations, News, UAP/UFO with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2010 by S. P.

Hats off to NBC 2 in Ft Myers.  After taking a light-hearted approach to their initial story of people reporting “strange” lights off the southwest Florida coast, the station actually followed up on the story today with more solid investigation.

Homestead Air Reserve Base, which is located near Miami, is taking credit for the light show.  A spokesman for the base says they were conducting flare training exercises, which are required on a quarterly basis.  Homestead Air Reserve Base operates F-16 fighter aircraft, which employ flare counter measures.  Additional witness photos and video give a fuller picture and do seem to show flares.

In order to maintain operational currency, Air Force pilots are required to complete a certain number of training events within certain timeframes which are airframe-specific.  For example, they must log a certain number of instruments approaches in order to maintain instrument currency.  Fighter pilots must additionally complete a certain amount of fighter-specific training events, including training in use of countermeasures.

There are designated Warning Areas off the Florida coast in the area where people reported these lights.  The Air Force prefers to practice with flares over water, particularly after setting a brush fire a few years ago touched off by a flare.

While they’re called “flares,” most people don’t understand the type of flares we’re talking about bear almost no resemblance to the roadside flares with which most people are familiar.  Instead, aircraft use specially-designed, very sophisticated flares as countermeasures against missiles.  Very simply, most missiles are looking for the heat signature given off by an aircraft’s engine(s).  The missile can be “fooled” if another “hotter” heat signature appears.  That’s what flares are designed to do – “trick” the missiles.  As I learned doing some additional research today, in recent years flares have become even more technologically advanced in order to keep up with advances in missile seeker head technology.  In order to defeat newer missiles which employ sensors that can “see” color, today’s flares are “multispectral” flares which change color as they burn.

Finally, the timeframe during which these lights were observed turns out to be much shorter than originally implied.  It’s now reported the people saw the lights around 2120 for only “several minutes.”  This time frame is consistent with fighters ejecting flares in order to “check the box” and complete a quarterly training requirement.

Given all this, I’m very comfortable with the explanation that these lights were in fact flares from F-16s operating in designated military training areas.  Considering the (now obvious) likelihood of people seeing these flares and misidentifying them, Homestead should have notified the media in advance.  I chalk this up to someone not thinking as opposed to some sort of secret squirrel conspiracy.

Case closed.

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

Strange Lights Spotted over SWFL Coast

Posted in Locations, News, UAP/UFO with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 15, 2010 by S. P.

[Note: In case you came directly to this story instead of through the homepage, my update to this story is here.]

According to a NBC 2 News report this morning (http://www.nbc-2.com/Global/story.asp?S=13156353), residents along the southwest Florida coast from Ft. Myers Beach to Marco Island spotted “strange” lights off the coast Tuesday evening (14 Sep).  The Coast Guard claims the military was conducting “training.”  Viewing the video attached to the story, as a former Air Force pilot, I cannot identify the lights, however it was not of the best quality and shows the lights only briefly.  Warning Area W-168 (which are areas overwater in which the miliary conducts training) is off the coast of Ft. Myers, so it is not at all beyond the realm of possibility that the military was conducting training and that the lights are aircraft position lights or flares — perhaps someone else has seen this pattern and knows what they are for sure?   The news station, in typical fashion, laughs it all off as a joke, but claims they’re going to look into it more today.  Time will tell if they actually follow through.  Interestingly, the area of Tuesday’s reports includes Capri Island, where residents reported seeing mysterious lights earlier this year.

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

The Boiler Room Ghost

Posted in History, Investigations, Locations, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , on September 11, 2010 by S. P.

In the early part of the 20th century, the coal-fired boilers of the old county courthouse were replaced with new oil-fired boilers.  While the new boilers eliminated the back-breaking task of shoveling tons of coal, they did require a worker to light them by hand every morning.  For years, the boilers operated without a problem, except for that fateful Wednesday morning in 1942.

On that chilly morning, the janitor arrived for work and set about his chores just as he’d done for the previous five years.  Everything seemed perfectly normal as he walked into the boiler room.  He probably anticipated the comforting warmth the furnace would soon send through the cold, dank building.  All sense of normalcy vanished in an instant as he reached out to light the boiler at 7:10 am.  With a thunderous boom, the boiler backfired, belching flames and engulfing the helpless janitor in a deadly inferno.

A city disposal truck driver was passing the courthouse when he saw the flash and heard the explosion.  Jumping from his truck, he ran to the boiler room door where he found the janitor caught in the doorway with his clothes on fire.  The driver dragged the janitor from the building and began tearing off his burning clothing.  At the same time, a woman dashed from her apartment across the street with a blanket to help smother the flames.

The janitor was rushed to the county hospital with massive burns over his entire body.  He stubbornly clung to life for several hours, but finally succumbed to his injuries and died at 2:15 in the afternoon.

The janitor’s spirit apparently remains in the basement of the old courthouse, desperately seeking water to extinguish the flames and repeatedly reliving the final agonizing moments of his mortal life.  Many people over the years have reported clouds of smoke, clanking, moaning, and agonizing screams of pain in the basement near the location where the boiler once stood.

A particularly chilling tale of the janitor’s ghost involves a facilities foreman who worked at the old courthouse (now a museum) a number of years ago.  As the story goes, the man was hired shortly after moving to town and scoffed when told stories of the janitor’s apparition by his coworkers.  To prove his mettle and fearlessness, the man often volunteered to work alone in the building – staying late and arriving early.  Of course, he surely didn’t mind the overtime he collected as well.

All this changed one morning.  The man arrived early and set about preparing the building for the day.  Working near the old boiler room, he became aware of a muffled sound nearby.  He ignored it at first, but it became louder.  As the sound increase, he finally found it impossible to ignore and looked towards the location of the sound.  He was startled to see a white mist.  It dawned on the man that the sound was similar to approaching footsteps.  He also noticed the temperature in the room felt as if it was rapidly increasing.

As the man watched in now frightened disbelief, the mist solidified into the smoldering figure of the long-dead janitor.  The apparition screamed and slowly sank to the floor.  It glowed as if on fire and convulsed in apparent excruciating pain while its arms flailed seeming to search in vain for a water bucket to extinguish the phantom flames.  Finally, the body turned to a pile of ashes and with one last horrifying groan, disappeared.  The time was 7:10 am.  The man let out a blood curdling scream heard three blocks away, ran from the courthouse, packed his bags, and was never seen in town again.

Yet, to this day, the staff maintains that the old janitor continues to haunt the basement and most avoid ever going down there alone.

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

The Tanker Ghost

Posted in History, Investigations, Locations, Military, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2010 by S. P.

KC-10 - U.S. Air Force Photo

The KC-10 tanker is a magnificent aircraft.  Based on the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 airliner, the KC-10 represented a great step forward in U.S. Air Force air-refueling capability over the 1950s era KC-135 tanker at the time of its introduction in the 1980s.  The KC-10 carries more fuel and more cargo than the KC-135.  Additionally, the KC-10 is itself air-refuelable, greatly extending its mission range over the KC-135.  Between 1981 and 1987, the U.S. Air Force took delivery of sixty KC-10s.  Fifty nine aircraft remain in service.  One aircraft, tail number 82-0190, was destroyed in a ground fire with the loss of one life.

On September 17, 1987, KC-10 82-0190 landed at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana.  The crew taxied-in and parked the aircraft without incident.  About an hour after the crew departed, three maintenance ground crew members were working on the aircraft.  According to the mishap report, one airman was in the cockpit, one was in the left main gear well and the other was in the boom operator’s station at the rear of the aircraft.  Unbeknownst to the ground crew, a leak had caused fuel vapors to accumulate in the center avionics bay, which is a small compartment filled with electronic equipment underneath the main floor amidships in the aircraft.  Somehow, perhaps from a spark due to electrical arching, the fuel vapors ignited, and with 63,000 pounds of jet fuel in the tanks, resulted in a massive fire.  Miraculously, two of the ground crew escaped the inferno, but one perished in the explosion and fire.

Once the mishap investigation concluded, the Air Force dutifully salvaged what parts it could from the burned-out hulk of 82-0190.  These parts went back into the KC-10 supply inventory and were used on other airframes as needed.  At this point, the official Air Force story concludes.  However, as a few in the KC-10 community know, by firsthand experience, this was not the end of the story.

Similar to reports of appearances by Don Repo’s apparent ghost on L-1011 aircraft which received parts salvaged from Eastern Airlines flight 401 after it crashed in the Everglades in 1972, KC-10 air and ground crew began experiencing strange incidents on aircraft which had received parts from 82-0190.  A couple people claim to have encountered an apparition of the deceased airman.  However, the most common report is the smell of the aftershave worn by the airman.  Those who knew the airman in life claim he enjoyed using liberal amounts of aftershave.  These people insist the scent they’ve encountered is the same smell they associated with the airman when he was alive – yet they smelled it after his death and while working alone.

I’ve personally spoken with several of these witnesses during candid conversations in which they had no reason to lie.  I’m confident that at the very least they believe they have encountered the airman’s ghost.  Interestingly, scent is one of the most often reported signs associated with paranormal activity – the other being sound.

Is the Air Force KC-10 fleet haunted?  Perhaps, but considering it maintains the best safety record of all aircraft in the Air Force inventory, not many people find reason to complain about the airman’s ghost watching over the remaining airframes.

2010 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

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