A Picture Of Paranormal Fraud

July 14, 2012
Jason Korbus

There is a paranormal group that goes by the name of Ghosts of New England Research Society. G.O.N.E.R.S, for short. Recently, they began publicizing a hoaxed ghost photo as authentic. They have also been using the hoax, in part, to promote an episode of the Discovery Channel series “American Haunting” that they’ll be featured on this fall.

Understandably, this has gotten a number of people in the paranormal community up in arms. Fraudulent ghost photos are something most investigators decry and, indeed, it was skeptical paranormal investigators themselves who spotted the fraud in the first place.

The photo, taken at Ryder’s on Main, a bar and restaurant in Meridan, CT shows the hazy silhouette of what G.O.N.E.R.S calls “The Holy Grail of Paranormal Research: A Full Body apparition of what appears to be a women in 1920s-30s period attire…” Of course, anyone familiar with famous ghost photos recognized this image as the well-documented “Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove” taken at the Chicago cemetery by members of the Ghost Research Society in the summer of 1991. It had simply been superimposed on a photo taken inside Ryder’s on Main by way of photoshop or perhaps even a smartphone app.

Skeptical paranormal investigator Kenny Biddle who, in full disclosure, must also be noted as a contributor to The Bent Spoon, first spotted the forgery on Facebook, drawing attention to the striking similarities between the images and quickly swayed opinion. While many on the thread were originally hyping it up as a great piece of evidence, they soon turned to castigating the paranormal team in question for using it to market themselves.

The story soon went viral and Ghosts of New England Research Society took the image down, apparently not commenting publicly on the matter. Many in the paranormal community have taken this incident to be the prime example why paranormal investigation is not accepted by the scientific mainstream. Even Brian Harnois, former cast member of the longest running fraudulent paranormal reality series on television, Ghost Hunters, said it is incidents like this that caused him to retire from the field.

In defense of G.O.N.E.R.S, it is unclear whether they hoaxed the photo themselves, or were duped by the bar/restaurant. Either way, however, the paranormal team is culpable. They should have known how famous the Bachelor’s Grove image is, for one. Secondly, they should not have publicized and promoted the photo from Ryder’s on Main to get attention for their upcoming television exposure. They fell into a trap they set themselves with their own ignorance.

But is this really the cause of paranormal investigation not being taken seriously by science? Is fraud really the reason ghost hunters don’t get more credit from the scientific establishment? I think not. Fraud happens in science as well. Things like peer review help eliminate it, something most paranormal enthusiasts don’t seem to use. But even having examples of fraud throughout the history of science gives no one logical license to distrust the scientific process. It has worked for hundreds of years.

No, the reason ghost hunters are not taken seriously by science is because they do not respect science. Ghost hunters, by and large, have a fundamental misunderstanding of how to operate under proper scientific methodologies or even to control their experiments. The evidence they put forth is not given credibility because it isn’t evidence. At best, it is often just anomalies they found on their digital voice recorders or readings they took on their EMF meters. Anomalies which, by the way, have been explained countless times by science-based investigators.

If there’s a lesson that can be learned from Ghosts of New England Research Society, it is this: your photographs are not proof of ghosts. But it can be proof that you don’t seem to know what you are doing. So, if you want to be taken seriously by science, start taking science seriously and educate yourselves.