April 24, 2009
GH: Spalding Inn
Sorry I took so long! I was snowmobiling all weekend, finally ran out of gas somewhere around Thailand. Seriously though, did anyone else find it a little bit odd that Jay's parting words to Robb right before GHI began the investigation were "If you need us I'd say call us but there's no way I'm going to hear the phone ring" because he and Grant were going snowmobiling? Obviously GHI was doing their investigation at night, were Jay and Grant snowmobiling through the backwoods of New Hampshire in the dark for eight hours? Maybe they just wanted to work in a cool shot of them flying through the air on a snowmachine after shooting off an embankment, but if so that's pretty lame — and yet it's the most reasonable explanation I can think of because I don't for a second buy that they were snowmobiling for eight hours or in the dark, much less both.
…but I digress. We're supposed to be covering the investigation of the Spalding Inn, a not-so-little chateau co-owned by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson of Ghost Hunters fame. We were even treated to interviews with both Jay's Wife and Grant's, who both reported having experiences on the premises of the Inn. In the case of Grant's wife, she and her son reported seeing a woman in the window of the Carriage House, I assume at a time that they had reason to believe no one was in that building, but that side of the issue wasn't explored at all and so for that reason I have to label this potentially impressive incident (with more than one eyewitness reporting the same event) as incomplete. They may well have seen what they saw, but we can't rule out the possibility it was an actual living, breathing person who was in the building without the knowledge of her or her son.
On the other hand, the incident reported by Jason's wife just seemed rather silly to me. She said she thought she heard Jay talking on his cellphone and she thought his voice was coming from downstairs, but then she realized he was down the hall in the opposite direction, putting the kids to bed. I'm left to wonder if maybe the producers came to her and said, "Look lady, something weird must have happened to you here. Tell it to the camera so we can have both wives on the show." I pass no judgement on Mrs. Hawes, she seemed every bit as genuine as any credible witness TAPS has interviewed, but her experience could easily be explained by any number of non-paranormal events such as sound traveling through the old building in an unexpected way or maybe some other person who vaguely sounded like Jason was talking downstairs.
Then there's the question of why she thought he was talking on a cellphone and how that's definitively different from the sound of a guy talking to his kids while putting them to bed. Overall I'm a bit confused why someone at Pilgrim decided this interview describing this event was compelling and should be included as part of the episode — unless of course it was just to show the fans that Jason really does have a wife — which leads me to another digression: when Kris Williams came on board there was a lot of fan speculation (especially over some photographs involving go-karts) that maybe Jay was having marital problems and maybe he and Kris Williams were an item. I found it terribly ironic that despite so many investigations where we've been given no compelling reasons to suspect such rumors were true, we now have an investigation featuring Jay's wife and out of nowhere he closes out the episode by finishing a phone call with Kris Williams, "All right, sweetheart. Bye." I did a double-take there, I don't recall him ever referring to her (or any of the women who have been on the show) as "Sweetheart". Maybe he's just that kind of guy who calls random women "Sweetheart", who knows (maybe he's the kind of guy who pats the waitress on her ass when she turns around) — maybe it means nothing at all, but it struck me as out of the ordinary.
GHI came complete with Angela, who I thought we were told was leaving the team now that she's engaged to be married. This episode appeared to be filmed in winter, so I believe it was likely filmed after the last GHI investigation we saw. Not sure what that means, if anything, but if she's changed her mind and is staying with the team that's fine by me. Not only is she pretty (sorry, yes — I'm ashamed to admit that it does factor into me liking her on the show) but she's not "girly" in that afraid-of-mice kind of way, which is to say she investigates as well as any of the guys, and probably better than Steve and Tango these days (stop fooling around so much guys). I did notice she wasn't present for the evidence analysis despite the fact that she usually takes part in it. Hopefully that's just because Steve & Tango took the last chairs and not because this was her last hurrah with the GHI team.
As usual, Robb was in my opinion the weakest link of the team — which is unfortunate since he's the team leader. His ass-kissing wasn't nauseating, but it was palpable and it was quite obvious that he puts Jay & Grant on some sort of pedestal. As they parted after the initial tour/walkthrough Robb said, "I know you guys are hardcore skeptics, so if you guys have had experiences here…" then that must mean the place is haunted so let's just pack up and not even bother investigating. Okay, he didn't finish the sentance in quite that way, but that was basically the end-result of this investigation. Robb's relevant quote from the reveal was, "Spalding Inn is certainly actually haunted" despite their strongest evidence being a doorknob that rattled and an unexplained breeze in a closed room.
Brandy & Angela were central to a few of the events that transpired during the investigation. At one point relatively early on they were doing an EVP session and they asked a spirit to knock twice if it wanted them to leave. When there was no knocking they asked for some other sign of presence and then there was a sound from out in the hall. Now, we can't know for sure that sound wasn't paranormal but I surely wouldn't take it as a reply to their coaxing as it definitely didn't come from anywhere near them, much less from somewhere inside the room they were in. Despite this, Brandy felt compelled to take out her EMF detector and she established there was a very low baseline reading. Then she asked any spirits to come closer and we saw the readings spike to 3 milligauss or so.
Now, such a reading is still within the norm for background EMF but one might argue the initial baseline of 0.0 – 0.1 means 3.0+ should be considered anomalous. I would tend to agree, however there could be other sources. Someone might have turned on a television in the room below them, or a computer, or some other source of strong EM radiation that could potentially create a 3.0 milligauss (which is really quite small, as mentioned earlier) some small distance away. Indeed, there must be an explanation for the fluctuation but the fluctuation is really so small that explanation could be any number of non paranormal things.
What really bothered me though was that when she saw the initial spike in readings she asked the spirit to come closer and make the readings go up even more. After that request it looked like the readings just continued to fluctuate in the same manner they had since the EM spike began — bouncing between 1.0 and 4.0 but staying around 2.0 – 3.0 most of the time. Yet, it seemed as if she concluded she had indeed seen a successful response. That absolutely wasn't the case, she asked for higher EM readings and while the highest spike may have occurred after that request it was only marginally higher and overall it looked like the EM field was averaging about the same before and after. At best it was inconclusive and I'm disappointed that once again an investigator's desire to see certain (positive) results has caused them to lose their objectivity and read too much into their "evidence". Most classically this happens with so-called EVP's all the time, with people hearing things that simply aren't there because they want to. More on that later though, because we're treated to some of that in this investigation as well.
Down in the area Jay & Grant are renovating to be the bar there was also some activity. Robb reported feeling a cool breeze blowing in his face for a moment and could find no source for it. When Brandy & Angela were in the same area, Brandy reported feeling a warm breeze, also in her face. In her case, it actually happened twice and in all three cases it seemed to occur directly in front of the bar itself, a rather narrow patch of the room. I actually consider this some of the most interesting evidence of this investigation. Unfortunately it's relegated to a "personal experience" but realistically there is no way we could reasonably expect GHI to record proof of an anomalous breeze. Because of the consistent location of the anomaly I think it's still fair to consider maybe there is air movement through "normal" means that simply creates airflow by the bar. Playing devil's advocate I still have to point out that Robb is much taller than Brandy and yet both reported the breeze was only on their face. One way or the other, this seemed worthy of more time and investigation than it seemed GHI gave it. With a little more study they might have come up with an exceptional debunk, or at least more thoroughly rule out "normal" explanations.
Another experience shared between two team members was a camcorder malfunction both Joe & Angela experienced at different times. Joe was sitting on a bed when his camcorder beeped and suddenly stopped working. He initially suggested the battery was drained, and of course we had to hear the "theory" about how ghosts drain batteries in order to get energy to manifest themselves, but here's the thing: he turned it back on and said there were only 25 minutes left when previously he'd had over 200 minutes left on the battery. Did you folks playing along at home catch that? He turned it back on. In other words, the battery wasn't completely dead, which means the camcorder did not shut itself off because the battery died (since it didn't). Therefore there must be some other explanation for the camcorder turning itself off.
Personally I've always found battery timers to be a bit iffy. It's possible Joe's battery went from 200 minutes of power to 25, but it's also possible when he turned it back on the camcorder reported 25 minutes incorrectly when really the battery had more juice left than that. Heck, even more likely is the possibility that the last time Joe actually looked at the time left on the battery (200 minutes) was a few hours prior. What was most interesting to me is that later on in the investigation we hear the same beep just before Angela reports that her camcorder has turned itself off — and after she tells Brandy that it was a brand new battery that was fully charged, she turns it back on and finds that the camcorder is actually telling her the same thing: the battery has over 200 minutes left. Hearing that same exact beep suggests to me that either Angela and Joe were using the same model camcorder, or more likely they were using the same exact camcorder at different times. If that latter part is true then it's entirely possible the camcorder was simply broken, perhaps either the software had a bug of some sort or the wiring is faulty and it randomly shorts and turns itself off. We can even go back to the possibility that the battery-life indicator is simply inaccurate and unreliable. With all of these "normal" possibilities it's rather grating to see the team labeling such events as definitively paranormal.
Something I found particularly telling actually involved Joe around the time of his camcorder experience, but it didn't involve the camcorder. Rather, it involved the bed he'd been sitting on when the camcorder turned itself off — he reported that he felt the bed was shaking. Interestingly, they actually had one of the vibration detectors Britt had made for TAPS and they put it on the bed (after Joe got off) and sat admirably still while they asked any spirits to continue shaking the bed. We saw Jason use this device before and it's extremely sensitive. Robb could have tapped his foot from across the room and set it off, which is why I know they were admirably still because the device did not trigger once.
Something like a bed shaking is just a classic ghost hunting conundrum because the "normal" explanations are many and varied, and yet so many people tend to ignore all the "normal" possibilities and jump straight to the paranormal. Perhaps it's because beds are where we sleep and we feel particularly vulnerable/paranoid, who knows? The reality is though that we might feel like the bed is shaking when really it's just a trick of our minds, or we might be shaking the bed ourselves without realizing it through unconscious movement, in a foot or leg for example. We're talking about a bunch of springs covered with fabric after all, it doesn't take much to set it in motion. Even if there is actual motion that isn't caused by the occupant, it could be as simple as the furnace in the basement turned on and the vibrations travel through the floor.
The reason I harp on this particular case is that Robb & Joe seemed almost convinced they were in contact with a spirit entity, and confronted with a complete lack of vibration on the bed — something that "in theory" should be extremely easy for a spirit to manipulate (since it takes to little force) and something which Joe believed a spirit may have actually been doing — I would expect objective investigators to conclude that they had not in fact experienced any spirit activity. Instead it would seem they believe the ghost just stopped shaking the bed when Joe got off.
During the analysis one of the recordings analyzed was that of a doorknob jiggling. I personally found this to be refreshing simply because it seems far more in-touch with reality than some of the so-called EVP's we're forced to listen to, but as I mentioned earlier we have some of those in this investigation as well so this is really only a brief respite of sanity before the ridiculousness begins. In short, as they were leaving a room Barry & Joe heard a loud noise which they believed came from the door on the opposite side of the room. Whether or not that was actually the source of the sound wasn't confirmed to my satisfaction but I'll run on the assumption that they've got good ears and judged the origin of the sound correctly.
They then checked the door itself and determined that the knob was not loose and the door itself secured in such a way that it didn't even budge when nearby doors where opened and shut (creating airflow differentials that often cause nearby doors to jiggle). Along with the "breeze" that Robb & Brandy experienced, to me this seemed like something worthy of spending some time on, but since it only happened once I'd have to say they did about as thorough a job examining the possibilities as one could expect. Unfortunately I'd say that leaves this in the category of "unexplained" but GHI seemed intent on putting it in the category of "almost certainly paranormal".
The next piece of evidence also involved Barry & Joe, earlier in the evening they'd been in one of the guest rooms when Barry thought he heard Joe say something, but Joe hadn't actually said anything. Later they discovered on the recording just before Barry reacts to a sound Joe didn't hear, the recording contains what sounds like a male voice saying, "Hey" in a very relaxed and drawn-out way. Now, this did sound like a male voice saying that to my ears, but at the same time I feel it's also possible it was the central heating turning on or something. After all, it's a single syllable word that doesn't contain very much inflection. Even though I agree with GHI on what it sounds like, I still think other possibilities should have been examined. On a technical level I did find this interesting because although Barry apparently heard it with his own ears (which would technically make it not an EVP) it seems to have shown up on their handheld recorder but not on the production audio, which would be characteristic of a "true" EVP.
Going downhill, there was another "EVP" caught around the time that Brandy felt the breeze in her face. Normally, I might take a number of events that occurred in close proximity to each other and say that together they make even stronger evidence that something odd really was going on, but like Joe with the camcorder on the bed, this didn't seem to measure up. Basically, the team claims there is a third (also female) voice that says "Hi" really loudly while Brandy & Angela are talking. Personally, I think it's just a single syllable from either Brandy or Angela that happened to come out louder on the recorder because they were moving it arouind while they talked or something. Insisting there was a third voice, who also happened to be female, on the basis of a single syllable that occurred while two other females were talking is a stretch; and that's being generous.
At the bottom of the hill we have an incident involving Robb & Dustin in the kitchen. Actually, that's not quite fair: the incident was interesting (although almost entirely undocumented and therefore just a personal experience), what isn't interesting is the EVP. Again, we have multiple events occurring in quick succession, which would seem to solidify the idea that maybe there really was a ghost doing all this. Specifically, Dustin & Robb were in the kitchen when Dustin says he saw a black mass across the room. He says that as he watched it the figure passed in front of the window and blocked out the light. It then proceeded across the room towards one of the corners, at which point Robb (and the audience) hear a noise in the kitchen which Dustin claimed came from the corner where the figure went into.
This sound is the only documentation that exists other than the EVP we're about to discuss. Dustin didn't even mention seeing a figure until after Robb heard the sound; not to suggest Dustin was being anything but truthful but if he had reported seeing a figure, pointed out it's patch for Robb (and the camera) and all of a sudden there was a sound in that corner as Dustin was pointing at it to indicate that's where he saw the shadow moving to, well I would have found that pretty compelling. Unfortunately that isn't what happened so we just have a sound and a personal story to go along with it.
…and the EVP. This EVP supposedly said "Cherry", which Jay & Grant said was relevant because the building used to be called the "Cherry Hill House". The first thing that comes to mind for me is this: why would an entity say the word "Cherry" out of nowhere, regardless of whether or not there is some connection between that word and the history of the place? I mean, if they heard what sounded like someone saying the word "Wood" are they going to speculate that since this occured in the kitchen that someone must have been asking for more wood to fill the old stoves that used to be there? Oh wait, that might actually make sense. Saying "Cherry" on the other hand, doesn't seem to. At the very least, I'd expect some other words to go along with it. After all, this wasn't from an EVP session so it's not like we can expect a one-word answer, and it's also not a conversation opener like "Hey" or "Hi" so we're left to believe some spirit was trying to strike up a conversation by saying the word "Cherry"?
I will grant that this is a two-syllable word, and so it would seem twice as convincing as the other recordings, but to me it sounded far less like an actual voice than the other two recordings. What makes this even more disappointing for me is that GHI has themselves caught some longer EVP's, sometimes several words in a row and occasionally even in a language (not English) native to the locale where they are investigating. They know what impressive EVPs sound like, and this isn't it. Despite that, not only do they run with these three recordings as EVPs, but they declare the place as conclusively haunted and Robb waxes how he's sure Jay & Grant would have come to the same conclusion after examining the same evidence. There's where he might be correct, but that doesn't mean he should have the same low standards.
As some have said, overall this struck me as very self-serving for Jay & Grant's new business, and that's there right — and if they've got enough pull with Pilgrim and Sci-Fi that this passed as an episode of Ghost Hunters then more power to them, but let there be no mistaking the quality of the investigating was sub-par, even factoring in the enormous handicap we're used to them giving themselves. To repeat the opinion without the golf vernacular, because I feel strongly that it bears repeating: over the years we've come to expect to be disappointed by TAPS and GHI but this shows both teams can still surprise us by hitting new lows.
|^ Please Support our Sponsor|