April 17, 2009

GH: Gaither Plantation

This investigation aired as a 2nd-halfer to the Georgia Aquarium (Titanic Exhibit) investigation and joining TAPS again were Joe & Diana Avena, two investigators local to the Atlanta, GA area. The Gaither plantation was an old cotton plantation built in the decade prior to the U.S. Civil War and among other things Confederate soldiers were rumored to have been quartered on the premises, and perhaps some died on the property as well.

During the years Ghost Hunters has been on television we've seen Jay go home (or back to the hotel) sick a handful of times, one just recently in fact, but I believe this investigation may mark the first time Grant has taken ill. Before the investigation proper began he apparently headed back to his room and Jay spent the evening investigating with Joe Avena. Those who have been reading my writeups for a while and who watched the investigation will likely know exactly where I am going next with this. One of my pet peeves about TAPS (and this problem doesn't seem to exist with GHI) is the way women investigators are treated differently than the men. In this case, Diana's husband was co-opted by Jason so she was relegated to investigating with "the girls" Kris & Amy.  In my mind, it would have been nice if Jay investigated with both Joe and Diana but failing that she could have investigated with Steve & Tango or she could have switched off and investigated with Joe (who I assume to be her husband) later in the night. Instead, the only time we see a three-person investigation team seems to be when they have an extra female to assign to put on the all-girls team.

Out of the entire property, the only place their host seemed afraid to venture was the attic in the main house. Jay & Joe went up their and began hearing footsteps. Citing an old investigation technique he and Grant used to use years ago, Jay thought it would be interesting to sprinkle flour on the ground and see if any imprints appear in the white powder — not a bad idea, especially if you want to rule out rodents as a possible cause for the sounds. I did find it slightly contrived however, because we've never seen them do this before and Jay claimed to come up with the idea spontaneously, but he had a bag of flour right outside in the car. Even if we're being generous I think we have to at least assume it wasn't spontaneous at all and Jay had been planning on using the "old flour trick". I mean, unless we're supposed to believe he'd been planning on bringing it back to the hotel to make his own pancakes.

More worrying is the interpretation of results: After a while they notice what seems to be a shoe-print in the flour, and closer examination finds two more prints, leading from one end of the attic towards the stairs. Immediately they sought to rule out their own footprints and those of their camera operator. Right there that tells me they weren't sure whether or not they might have stepped in the flour and contaminated their evidence, and that's a pretty stupid thing to not be 100% sure about. The next thing that occurred to me was that this is the sort of test that "rules in" normal explanations. In other words, if you sprinkled flour all over the floor of a room and came back later to find the furniture all rearranged but absolutely no disturbance to the flour, that would be extremely interesting. However if you saw the furniture was rearranged and there were footsteps entering the room, all over the floor, and leaving again, it would be pretty safe to assume an actual person was to blame.

Instead, despite believing it was possible they might have contaminated their own evidence they came up with excuses why it probably wasn't any of them, and therefore must be a spirit or something. Running with that for a moment, we've heard so much about "residual" activity including sounds like footsteps when the floor itself isn't even vibrating (thanks to those geophones a few investigations back) so what exactly are we supposed to believe now? That sometimes disembodied footsteps (or the sound of furniture being moved, etc) are just sounds playing over and over like a recording, and sometimes there is actually an invisible person there that wears invisible shoes and is subject to the laws of gravity pushing down onto the floorboards despite not being visible or tangible in any other way?

Worse, it looked to me like the shoe-prints in the flour had tread marks to them. I'm no expert on shoemaking, but it occurs to me that any shoes made in the 1800's would likely have smooth leather soles, not rubber soles with the intricate tread patterns we find normal on today's shoes. In short, absolutely nothing about their interpretation of the flour evidence makes very much sense at all.

There were only two other noteworthy events from this investigation, and one of which seemed to be mentioned only in passing. During the reveal a recording is played for the client where someone asks a question and gets 3 knocks in response. I don't recall seeing this during the investigation and I'm a little confused why something TAPS would normally consider extremely impressive seemed to be shoved into 10 seconds of episode time. The second bit was a buffet cabinet door swinging open by itself — another thing that actually seems quite impressive, except again Jay & Grant seem to bizarrely play it down.

They show the video of the door opening on its own, and while the video isn't clear enough that we could definitely rule out hoaxing with fishing line, ignoring that possibility it really doesn't seem to leave a lot of room for reasonable explanation. They even said they pulled the door open by hand and noted it didn't swing nearly as far, so for it to open the way it did on camera would require a significant amount of force, yet after seemingly ruling out the possibility that it just swung open from a vibration or breeze, Grant laments that it didn't close by itself and suggests their guide install a magnetic latch and see if it still opens of its own accord.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not convinced the buffet door opening was paranormal. It's entirely possible that someone walking directly above it might cause a vibration that happens to jar the door loose with enough force to open it as seen, but after the big-to-do about the flour I found the sudden hardcore skepticism surrounding the cabinet door to be disturbingly odd. I must say, I really miss Monsterquest and Destination Truth because I feel like those investigations give their audience a consistency TAPS just doesn't seem to have. It really seems to me that if you take the same piece of evidence and place it in three different investigations, one time TAPS will shout from the rooftops how impressively paranormal it is, another time they will say it's inconclusive, and the third time they'd offer up some flimsy explanation that doesn't really fit and call it a solid debunk.

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Comments on GH: Gaither Plantation »

April 17, 2009

Anon @ 5:28 pm

Regarding the footprints in the flour … I had no idea ghosts wear tennis shoes.

April 18, 2009

Obi Wan Canubi @ 6:51 am

The flour on the floor bothered me. What is this the 5th/6th season? And Jay say, "oh I have flour in the truck." And then goes on to tell the side interview segment that it is a tactic he and Grant did regularly for years. This is not the first dirty attic they have investigated on GH, did they just pick this trick up on a "How To" video that Greg Brady had when he made his UFO scam to scare Bobby and Peter in the backyard.

dr_peter_venkman @ 7:42 am

I was bothered by the flour as well but for other reasons. There are two types of evidence that can be captured in any investigation: normal and paranormal. Jason's hypothesis is that if there is a source to the footstep-like sounds that is making contact with the floor, it will leave evidence in the flour. This is entirely reasonable when you consider the possible everyday sources like rodents and small animals. When you consider the realm of believed paranormal sources, things get unreasonable. Many eyewitnesses report seeing apparitions in the form of humans. Others report objects being moved. For a paranormal source similar to these and others to make a footprint in the flour requires an entity that can exert a force identical or at least very similar to gravity. Gravity is an attractive force between two object that have mass. The earth is always holding up (or down) its part of the bargain. We all stick pretty well, some better than others. A paranormal source would either have to exert a force against the flour or have mass enough to be attracted to the earth with enough force to leave a print. I'll concede that the flour can be very sensitive and full body weight wouldn't be required. However, spontaneously creating mass requires an infinite change to go from zero to non-zero mass. Any conversion of energy to mass or vice-versa must obey the mass-energy equivalence function (e = mc2). This is common in our universe (stars) but not so much in old attics.

I know that many people think that this line of reasoning is too confining because the paranormal is outside our current understanding. The term energy is casually bandied about by many to describe the paranormal. I think the phrase "collection of energy" was used by Steve in this episode. This made me laugh. All scientific progress is based on previous scientific knowledge. The laws of physics cannot be ignored while researching the paranormal.

13pranks @ 2:14 pm

I wonder if the patterns in the flour were not footprints, but simply a byproduct of the sifter. Perhaps the sifter leaves concentric rings of flour when not being operated. I may have to make brownies or something tonight to test this theory :)

Oubliette @ 2:38 pm

Of course, the main question here is how Jay just happened to have a bag of flour and a sifter in his vehicle. Not your standard modern ghost detection equipment.

13pranks @ 3:58 pm

I've got it! The ghost, being only energy, thought it was walking across the floor, but in actuality was creating a standing wave pattern by vibrating the flour molecules at just the right frequency to create the patterns. To the ghost, he's behaving as if he were still alive, but for us, the physical "interface" is missing, so all we're seeing is peripheral evidence. It's like the difference between viewing a web page and looking at raw code. We can only recognize bits and pieces, and… okay, I'm cracking myself up, I have to stop! :)

Shannon @ 6:54 pm

I've watched this several times now and so much about it bugs me. The attic seems quite small and narrow. After the flour is put on the floor, there is a quick shot of Jay & Grant from the other end of the attic pointing straight at them (at the door end). Then The camera is positioned so its at the side of them. There are 3 prints quite far apart, as if someone is making long strides going from the one end of the attic to the door end-as if to avoid stepping in it.

The only shoes the viewer gets to see is Joe's, not Jay's, not Chris the camera man, or Kris Williams who is shown earlier in the episode setting up equipment.

Another strange thing. The homeowner was so terrified about the attic that she said that she wouldn't even go up there. After told about the footprints, she's all excited and can't wait to try this herself.

April 19, 2009

Revenant @ 11:37 am

Dr Venkman- "All scientific progress is based on previous scientific knowledge. The laws of physics cannot be ignored while researching the paranormal."

Excellent post. I've been thinking in the same way. I've been looking at chemical reactions in the human body and how the human body reacts with its environment. Everything from producing heat to static charges to gravity, like you touched upon. I wanted to take a look at what the human body can do and what it can't do, and then apply that to the many concepts of ghosts.

What did I come up with? Well…a bunch of nothing really. Science began sliding into "magic." For instance, I know how the human body creates heat. I understand the processes involved and the limitations of those processes. But when you "take away" the human body and start looking at the "ghost" and how a ghost would have a heat signature or how it could leave a heat imprint upon something…you start breaking all kinds of physical laws and throwing out scientific principles. The notion, that TAPS loves-"some people think" or "there's a theory" that a ghost(without mass) can create heat and sustain heat is utterly unsubstantiated by science.

You are absolutely right when you said that the laws of physics cannot be ignored while researching the paranormal. But if you don't ignore them…I'm not quite sure if you still even have a ghost left…and that wouldn't make for good TV.

Nosfer @ 12:34 pm

Photons have no mass (at rest), but "there's a theory" that they have energy and momentum. And by ol' Planck, since it has energy defined by his constant multiplied by the frequency of the photon, it thus has mass. So, we have a mass of massless photons which have energy. I don't think we can quite rule out "body-less ghosts" and energy :)

Lar @ 9:11 pm

The evidence was blatantly bogus in previous seasons but now it's downright insulting. Like the Titanic itself this show has hit bottom.

PS Everyone's invited to Grant's for pancakes. Just watch you don't step in the flour.

April 20, 2009

Martimus @ 2:55 am

I wouldn't go so far as to say that the show has hit bottom! It could be much, much worse! LOL

While I understand their desire to find heat evidence I think that it requires a leap of faith to follow their logic (or lack thereof depending on your perspective). One of the biggest intangibles we have is the question of what is the human spirit? It's somewhat easier to understand (but far from easy) when attached to a physical body. But what would it be when free from the constraints of these vessels we live in? If it consists of atoms, and specifically electrons, then it's entirely possible that it could generate heat. After all, when you accelerate electrons they tend to either absorb or radiate heat. But since I know of no scientist, living or dead, who has determined the composition of the human spirit this really falls into that leap of faith catagory.

SJ @ 2:15 pm

I doubt this is the case with Jay, but I have Celiac Disease, and if I were leaving my hometown and staying somewhere that had a kitchen, I'd bring my own flour, too. However, GF flour is really expensive, so I wouldn't be throwing it on an attic floor!

Like I said, I doubt that's the case; just throwing it out there.

I'm really sick of the way the investigators are grouped, too. Why can't they mix it up a little?

April 21, 2009

HollyDolly @ 2:18 pm

The flour thing bothers me to, as they never mentioned using it before, not even from the first episode. Makes me wonder if they surf around and check out other investigators websites where some of them use flour and trigger objects to see if a ghost has moved something.Strange how Jay had the flour.
Ghosts may have a physical mass, but a form that obeys the laws of physics in ways we don't yet understand at this time.
I'll have to watch the episode on Youtube to see it.
I would have spread or sifted the flour under normal lighting conditons on the attic floor and also placed a camera so it might capture any footprints as they were being made by the ghost. Then I would leave, and lock the door from the outside. so no one could get in .Then just go and do my investigation of the rest of the place. I think that might rule out contamination from some human source.
The cabinet door opening and the bangs or taps sound interesting.
Why they seemed to sort of blow this evidence off I don't know.
As far as how they group the investigators, maybe someone tell them them this is 2009, not 1890.I think they one day will crash and burn,which is a shame, as the show started out so promising.

Nosfer @ 3:07 pm

Disturbing that they capture so much useless evidence. Under more controlled and rigorous we might have something, but the haphazard methods of collecting and the seemingly deliberate lapses in footage make it all suspect or at least of no use for any serious research.

April 22, 2009

bill kelly @ 11:41 pm

Shannon – thats the first thing i was wondering. didnt they say the footprints were like 3-4 feet apart?? they ghost had to be over 6 feet to leave those kinds of spaces. and i believe 6-footers werent common in that time period as much as they are today

and Editor – i thought when you started paragraph 2 you were gonna say its the only time J&G dont investigate together. even GHI change up the teams. I wonder if Jay doesnt think he can leave Grant with anyone else after all his little tricks??

Steve and Tango need to be broken up too. I hate when the do the findings and theyre all like "oh thank you…great eyes Tango" its getting old.

April 23, 2009

alicat @ 11:26 am

13pranks – I think you conclusion about the sifter rings might just be correct after looking at this episode again last night. As far as I'm concerned, your conclusion seems to be on mark. Do I get any brownies?

Nosfer @ 12:03 pm

"Do I get any brownies?"

Well, we do have ample flour left with which to make them!

April 25, 2009

Liz M @ 12:42 am

13pranks – I thought the same thing when they showed the "footprints" on the floor – it looked exactly like the sifter when you place it on the ground. And if it's 3-4 feet apart, it could be that Jay had to put it down to add more flour which caused the rings – because it seemed to me that the "prints" were all located on the periphery of the floured area.

When they mentioned that Grant wouldn't be around did anyone else have a hope that there might be some legitimate evidence? (or that it would reveal a co-conspirator in pranking?)

Nosfer @ 11:45 am

"When they mentioned that Grant wouldn't be around did anyone else have a hope that there might be some legitimate evidence? (or that it would reveal a co-conspirator in pranking?)"

Maybe I'm being unkind, but I've seen these latest getting sick routines almost as a way of providing alibis. Jason gets sick, he's not there during the investigation, we get the flashlight going on. Jason cannot then be the one faking things. Grant gets sick, he's not there during the investigation, we get foot steps in flour and a door swinging open. Clearly Grant is innocent.

If Jason and Grant are both innocent, then all the things that have happened in the past when it is just the two of them must therefore be real. Using one person absent at a time does have a flaw in it's logic, though, and a brownie to whomever can spot it! :)

(Caution, brownie may have foot prints on it, offer not valid in all 57 states, void where prohibited by law, certain restrictions apply, brownie may not be real, must be 18 years or older to enter)

April 26, 2009

Lily @ 11:55 am

Gotta agree with the comments about sexism, especially if you know the Avenas. Diana used to be a PR professional and definitely has her patter down. Honestly, I think Joe was her bit of rough trade – he's hunky but not stunningly bright or particularly well educated and she definitely runs the show (pun intended). Maybe G&J were hoping the girls would get into some paranormal mud-wrestling or something.

Oh, and I want my brownie 'cause the flaw is that they could hire someone to play with the flashlights etc. LOL

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