March 20, 2009
GH: Kimball Castle
It was a dark and stormy night when Jay & Grant pulled into the looming shadow of Kimball Castle. After a long moment of pause to take in the awe-inspiring structure, they opened the doors to their black SUV and stepped outside. Rain stung Jay's cheeks. Somewhere behind him he could hear Steve cursing as some piece or other of expensive electronics received an inevitable, but unwelcome shower.
A door opened and light from within flooded the muddy driveway in a pool of visual warmth, broken only by the silhouette of a small woman — the shadow of whom fell directly across Jay and stretched out to eerie lengths into the darkness of the night. Somehow, standing in that shadow within a pool of light made him feel even colder, but that was probably just in his head. He stood there quietly, smoking a cigarette in the rain as his producer spoke with the woman. Finally, with the cameras in place and their client coached on what to expect, the signal was given. Carefully extinguishing the remaining half-inch of his smoke between his damp forefinger and thumb, Jay pocketed the remainder and began walking towards the castle entrance.
"We're TAPS. Here to help!" the sound of Grant's voice grated on him a little more each passing day but as usual Jay just looked down for a moment, took a breath to calm himself and put on his best false smile as he shook the client's hand and introduced himself. Steve followed suit and thus their tour commenced.
Obviously some of that actually happened, some of it might have happened, and some I just made up. It really was a stormy night though and Grant felt it was important to let the audience know that could have a serious impact on TAPS' investigation, although not the way you might expect. According to Grant, the ionized air created during an electrical storm could offer an abundant energy source to spirits in the area, actually increasing the level of activity. Since that's not actually what happened, and since I've never seen any proof it ever has happened, I'm going to call BULLS%#T.
It's not as if there wasn't potential activity one could hope to spike. The family didn't just claim they heard footsteps or felt someone touch their shoulder. They reported seeing multiple full-bodied apparitions in a few specific locations. I'll spare you the suspense and reveal that none were caught on video… or were they?
Okay, so I'm keeping in in suspense. Sorry.
Aside from the visual phenomena the family also reported two other specific events TAPS deemed significant and worth investigating. The more interesting of the two was the sound of horses in a building which used to be a barn, something that had been reported by multiple people on separate occasions. Unfortunately TAPS didn't get anywhere in regards to either confirming or debunking those sounds. The other, from their hosts description, seemed to be just a single incident where a door believed closed was later found open. A single incident does not a phenomenon make and as it turned out the door in question was prone to not latching properly when shut. Add in several other doors close nearby and we have a verifiable airflow condition that can easily cause the one door to open when another is either opened or closed.
Since I just went off on a rant about how TAPS seems to isolate (rather than integrate) the women it would only be fair to acknowledge that they seemed to have read my mind in advance and had Amy Bruni investigating with Dave Tango for some portion of the evening. Let's see more of that, TAPS — and start including the girls during evidence review too.
Jay and Grant caught something interesting on the thermal during their walkthrough. It was a heat signature that seemed to be a little above chest-height and the size (and possibly also the shape) of a person's head. To me it looked like it might have been on the other side of a chest-high wall, but Jason reported they were unsuccessful at reproducing it and even that they "tried to figure out where it was, to no avail." This brings back one of those points that's been made over and over again: It's difficult to make out what you're looking at on a thermal camera. Putting it on a rig side-by-side with a regular camcorder can instantaneously solve this problem.
Barry from GHI did something similar with his full-spectrum still-camera, but rather than take some cues from him it seems Barry is taking cues from Jay & Grant because he stopped doing it after the first few investigations. What's the matter boys? Is it hard to carry around a rig like that? Does it make your arms sore? Do you want me to kiss it and make it better? Seriously, how is anyone supposed to take you seriously and consider your work even remotely scientific when you're so obviously cutting corners because you don't feel like carrying around the proper tools?
During the evidence review this thermal footage continued to supply laughs (or :rolleyes: depending on your perspective). Dave, rational as always, was trying to figure out what the thermal hit might be when he suggested the possibility it was a reflection. Steve offered his own equally valid hypothesis that it might be a rodent. The problem with the reflection idea is that the heat signature was quite hot (a reflection would usually look slightly cooler) and that it seemed to move on its own, independant of the camera's movement (although this could be explained if the person being reflected moved). The rodent possibility is primarily dependant on the location of the heat signature. It looked like it was more than a few feet in the air, but we can't really tell because Jay & Grant were unable to determine where in the room the heat signature actually was.
The ridiculousness comes into play when they wrap up their discussion on the evidence with Steve saying, "It looks like a rodent to me" and somehow that's the final word. This piece of thermal footage is more inconclusive than some of the stuff they've insisted must be paranormal in the past, and obviously it's a blob — it absolutely not not look like a rodent. It doesn't look like anything. It's a blob! Not only that, it's a blob that seems to be several feet off the ground. It's entirely possible maybe it just looks that way on the thermal, or maybe there's a shelf there and a rodent ran across. I wouldn't rule it out, but to definitively settle on the idea that it was a rodent and not even show it to the client as potential evidence is absolutely ridiculous and completely inconsistent procedure for TAPS. To quote The Princess Bride, "Boo. Boo. Rubbish. Filth. Slime. Muck. Boo. Boo. Boo."
Coming in 2nd-place was a "reflection" in a window. We didn't really see this evidence being reviewed very much but apparently there was an image of a figure caught on video but TAPS claims to have determined it was the reflection of someone walking by. Nothing more specific than that, and they even showed it to the client for some reason despite this vague assertion that they decided it wasn't paranormal. Hey guys, jumping to the conclusion things aren't paranormal is our job. Your job is to prove they aren't paranormal, or provably eliminate "normal" explanations in cases where you think it might be. The evidence in this investigation was evaluated poorly, and in the case of the FLIR footage it was also collected poorly — a bad habit TAPS seems determined not to break. If they can't collect or evaluate evidence then what's the point? If I just wanted to watch people run around in the dark for entertainment purposes I'd watch Paranormal State instead.
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