Thursday, 24 August 2017

A Window On Fakery. More Fishy "Ghost" Footage.

Last month a video set in a hotel room purporting to show various objects moved by an alleged spirit went uber-viral (1). The cause of the haunting was, in my opinion, another case of deliberate fakery using fishing wire to manipulate objects remotely, something we've covered here frequently (2). The ever awesome Kenny Biddle even recreated the video to show just how these things can be faked (3). Whether inspired by that video or not this week brought yet more "fun with fishing wire."

Reported by various news outlets, I've looked at the Daily Mail's version of the story entitled "Is there anybody there? Ghost hunter films what he says is a spirit 'visitor' lifting the latch and opening a window" (4) which tells us:
"A spirit hunter claims to have proved his cottage is haunted by releasing inexplicable footage of the moment a 'ghost' opened his bedroom window. Andrew Ward was so convinced that his 400-year-old cottage in Cambridgeshire was haunted that he set up his camera to capture any paranormal activity.... Eerie footage shows the latch on the window lifting up sharply on its own, swinging around and dropping back down. Moments later the heavy-framed window opens on its own - despite no-one going anywhere near it."
So let's look at that footage and see what actually happens:



The first thing I noticed is that when the latch swings over it catches the blind cord and sets it swinging. The thing is the cord is already swinging when the footage begins. This implies that, perhaps, this isn't Ward's first run. He's attempted to catch the footage moments before this successful run. Now you may well argue that the cord could have been set in motion by a breeze coming in through the window. Could well be. but look at this footage Ward offers us from earlier in the day, notice the blind cord remains static even when Ward comes extremely close to it. The only time we see it set in motion is when the window latch catches it.


I suspect Ward manipulates the latch with fishing wire, the big question is do we see the wire at any point? Due to the poor lighting, I wasn't able to directly see the wire. I think it's just visible here but it's not a great image.


Note in all the other cases when we've spotted fishing wire it's been in well-lit conditions or when a camera light or torch has highlighted it. There are no such light sources here. What you should note is that I said I didn't DIRECTLY see the wire. If we can't see the wire itself perhaps we can catch glimpses of its presence indirectly.

I believe the image below shows the point on the latch where Ward attached the wire, there's distinctly something attached on the underside of the latch. Looks like sellotape to me. This lines up with the impression I got of the wire above. I think Ward has threaded the wire through one of the notches in the latch.


In fact, it looks distinctly like the tape Ward used to tape his camera to the wooden chair to film the activity!


There's another indication too. Watch the shadow on the wall as the latch lowers. Notice when the latch is at maximum elevation the shadow on the wall to its right is very straight.


Now watch what happens as the latch lowers.


A small bulge develops in the straight shadow and moves down the wall at the same rate the latch descends becoming more pronounced.



In my opinion, this is the shadow of the wire hence why it's so light an effect.

As for the window swinging open, it would be pretty straight forward to arrange someone to pull the window open from the ground outside again with wire. Notice that as the window swings open it reaches a point and then stops. I believe this is because the person pulling the window from outside had reached the maximum point they could exert force on the window frame, there's no more torque meaning they're likely they're directly below the frame. They have to move further back to put the frame in motion again.


The frame in question is described as "heavy" in various news reports surrounding the footage, but a significant chip in it implies it's a fairly light wooden frame and not particularly difficult to pull open.

Perhaps the most damning evidence of the hoax nature of this footage comes from Mr Ward himself. He tells us that various windows in the cottage are opened by his spirit, yet he decides to film just this one.
"'It could be a ghost 'stepping in' to my house. Every night it seems to be the windows. I always close them but some nights I wake up and they're wide open."
And it's on the first night he chooses to film that he captures his evidence. It's specifically the window he indicates in the beginning of the video that opens not one of the other windows he says open on a regular basis.



He tells the Mail that he just "got lucky" but this strikes me as more design than luck.

Of course, frustratingly, I can't conclusively say that this video is another wire hoax, but in examining the two hypothesis on offer with recourse to Occam's Razor we must conclude that the most parsimonous explanation, the one that requires the least unknown steps, is the most likely explanation.



Further Reading and Sources

(1)  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4748176/Man-records-alleged-ghost-encounter-Texas-hotel.html


(2)  http://skepticsboot.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/shut-that-door-brazilian-poltergeist.html


http://skepticsboot.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/the-daily-star-and-chilean-poltergeist.html

(3) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJx4S8ciDto

(4) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4812024/Spirit-hunter-films-supernatural-visitor-opening-window.html