This may be old news to you, since it’s like a month old, but this story was too good not to share. You know that show “Fact Or Faked?” on the SyFy Channel? The “skeptical” show examining paranormal footage from YouTube starring that mysteriously young looking “former FBI agent”? Well, it’s a load or crap, just like the others, as evidenced in this fun little piece by Dr. Karen Stollznow. You can read the entire post at the Randi.org Swift Blog, but I copied and pasted a good chunk of the important bits here. I hope they don’t care, because I was far too lazy and impatient to ask, just like you’re too lazy to go read the full post anyway.
Billed as the “Mythbusters of the Paranormal,” a title coveted but undeserved by every paranormal show in existence, Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files supposedly “revolutionizes paranormal programming by investigating the evidence witnesses post on the Internet every day. Have you ever seen a photo or video online and wondered, ‘Is this real?’ This is the show that will answer that question.”
On You Tube there is a viral video called Ouija Board: Planchette moves on its own! This footage has enjoyed over 85,000 views. In this clip, two people are playing with a homemade Ouija board, when the planchette spells out the name “Lisa.” Suddenly, the planchette moves across the board, seemingly of its own accord, to rest on the letter “X.” The participants appear scared and jerk their hands off the planchette. They attempt the reading one last time, again the planchette moves by itself, and the frightened participants end the session promptly. They gently accuse each other of “pushing” the planchette, as does a third, unseen camera person in the background, but they all staunchly deny any trickery was involved. To demonstrate that there are no magnets or wires involved the camera person films below and above the Ouija board. Fact or faked?
The video was actually created by skeptics. Produced by the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society (RMPRS), the video was part of a promotional gimmick for a TV project called Colorado X. This is the significance of the planchette moving back to the “X”. But the planchette wasn’t moved by spirits, demons or even the ideomotor effect. It was moved by string.
To achieve the movement, fishing wire was fed through a hole in the center of the “X” on the board, and attached to the front leg of the planchette. A fourth unseen participant was sitting to the right side of the board, holding the string. At the appropriate time, the string was tugged and the planchette darts across the board, landing on the “X” as though this were a message from beyond.
In the viewer comments section, one may read a range of theories to explain the phenomenon, with very few skeptical explanations.
Along came John Maas, producer of Fact or Faked. Scouting for paranormal footage online, Maas and his staff discovered the video and thought it perfect “evidence” for an episode of the show. But the footage wasn’t fantastic enough. Without ever asking if the footage was fact or faked, Maas asked the group to re-film the scene to emphasize that no string or magnets were used, but… to also show the planchette moving more dramatically across the board. The producer of Fact or Faked was asking the group to fake the video.
The RMPRS immediately contacted both D.J. Grothe and I, and we advised they continue the interaction to monitor the producers. The group shared all future correspondence with the JREF.
In an email to RMPRS member Matt Baxter, Maas gave directions for the re-film.
Hello! It’s Jon Maas – so the Supervising Producer wants the clip, but a little bit different. If the footage is good enough for a case and it comes in 48 hours, we can pay a license fee of $1500…
Don’t need necessarily everyone like the first video – ie you don’t need to round up the posse but…the story of the place is good enough.
The supervising producer has requested the clip be:
* Less staged (more like the first video)
* A bit more freakout like the first video
* Planchette moves a bit more dramatically
* Once again show the “no magnets” thing
If it gets approved by the network, $1500 license fee. Let me know either way!
$1500 is a cruelly tempting offer to starving skeptical paranormal investigators, but this would have been a deal with the devil. It would have been interesting to follow through with the project and then expose the producers, but then the group would have to become involved in the episode. They would lose the rights to the video, and lose their rights to the way in which they were portrayed. A one-off fee would damage their reputation for all time.
What would have happened if groups without ethics, or with a desire for fifteen-minutes of fame, had been contacted instead? Perhaps this accounts for the other episodes of Fact or Faked.
Fact or Faked is the paranormal equivalent of wrestling shows. Their “evidence” isn’t proof of the paranormal, but proof that some shows are fixed. The fact is that Fact or Faked wanted to fake the video, to falsify the evidence and results. There is no proof that the producers intended to present the footage as factual, or as paranormal evidence, but they did warn that they would present the footage and portray the group in any way they liked. The producers never once asked if the footage was faked, but they did ask that the footage be altered; it is tacit that they knew the film was faked.
The requests to move the planchette more dramatically reveals the dishonesty of the producers, and the inauthenticity of the show.
Brian and Baxter of the Rocky Mountain Paranormal Society, not to mention the lovely Dr. Stollznow, are quite possibly my favorite paranormal society trolls.
Just for fun, try and think of a paranormal reality show that isn’t falsely advertising itself. Let us know what you come up with, we’re genuinely interested.