paranormal investigation

What happened to Brian Harnois?

You remember Brian don’t you? He was the little kid Jason used to pick on relentlessly in the first season of the Ghost Hunters. When there was grunt work to be done, he was assigned the task. When a scapegoat was needed, he was called into service. And yes, he was the done running down the halls of Eastern State yelling, "Dude, Run!"

After being shoved off Ghost Hunters he made a brief stint on Ghost Hunters International. And from there, he disappeared. Like an apparition himself, he simply disappeared into the Ether.

It’s been a few years since I’ve seen or heard anything about it. I think we’ve all been expecting some sort of cameo on one of the Ghost Hunters shows, but alas, it has never come to pass. But Brian isn’t down and out. It seems he’s been busy building his own paranormal network.

I saw his name pop on a Twitter post and then, following that, landed on his "The Paranormals" site.

The Paranormals is a national investigation team founded by Brian Harnois

In the process of pursuing the goal of obtaining data to lead to a better understanding of ghosts and hauntings, our first ambition is to aid any individuals who are having problems dealing with or understanding a paranormal situation.

Give the site a look and see what Brian has been up to lately.

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Eastern State Penitentiary with the Ghost Hunters

After writing so much about Eastern State Penitentiary, I went back to the first season of Ghost Hunters to watch their original investigation of the site. This is perhaps their most infamous, dare I say notorious episode. It’s been several years since I’ve seen it and I forgot that not only was it the episode where Brian comes running down the hall yelling his famous "Dude, Run!" line, but it’s also the episode where they capture a figure walking around in cell block 12.

In looking back it’s pretty clear they were trying to build drama and tension into the show since they weren’t sure the paranormal angle was going to stick. We have the petty bickering between Steve and Brian, as well as the drama of whether Sheri is going to stick around. There’s the trouble with Brian Bell and his oversleeping and abandoning his post of watching the monitors at Command Central. Plus, there’s the general trouble of just trying to get everything set up and knowing how to use their equipment.

But the big topper is how Jason is an arrogant ass to everyone he runs into. He’s pushy, rude, condescending and seems to want to pick a fight all the time. He’s even pushy with Grant, telling him what to do and how to deal with Brian Bell. Just to prove he’s got a pair, he spouts off to Brian Harnois, "Yeah, we want to talk with you, you got a problem with that?" It’s actually surprising the show made it out of the first season. What’s more surprising is that Jason could walk down those narrow halls with an ego that large.

On to more important things of Brian and a cameraman tearing down the hallway screaming, "Dude, Run!" after seeing something pass right in front of them. The odd thing is, the whole episode leading up to this event has been about keeping calm and not running when you see something. How strange for them to spend so much time talking about not running from ghosts and then all of a sudden that exact thing happens, as if on cue. They certainly wouldn’t have planned something like that would they? That’s just pure coincidence, right? When you do that sort of thing in a novel it’s called "foreshadowing" but this is "reality TV", there’s no script… Right? Right?

The next big piece of excitement is the apparition they catch while everyone is off at dinner. Supposedly when everyone has left the cell block and no one is paying attention or watching the monitors or making sure someone isn’t playing around an apparition appears on camera. Of course we’re all familiar with the footage which now looks like someone with a cape over their head, wearing jeans and tennis shoes walking toward the camera then turning to run away. Strangely, that’s exactly what Jason says it is. He says it looks like someone is playing a prank on them. But try as they might, this brain trust can’t seem to replicate what they saw. Apparently it’s too dark for Stumbling Brian to walk with a cape over his head and no one else thinks to try it for themselves. So obviously if Brian can’t do it, it must be paranormal. Since Jason thinks Brian is a incompetent boob, I’m surprised he even let him try. Considering his ego in this episode I’m surprised he let anyone do anything. Odd though, I figure he would have tested it out himself. Or had Grant do it.

What I find funny is that they’ve all but admitted how it was done. Jason comes right out and says it looks like a person with a cape over their head. He admits to seeing a pant leg. He admits no one was actually up there paying attention. He admits readily it looks like a prank. So is this one of those "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" moments, that if he completely dismisses the obvious then it has to be something else. The answer is so obvious we’d be stupid to believe it?

Looking back on this episode, the entire thing feels staged and rehearsed. The comments leading up to Brian running seem so contrived. Jason saying the whole apparition is a hoax, then slyly laughing it off seems downright bizarre. The forced drama with Brian Bell and Sheri was just stupid. And Jason picking fights with everyone is painful to watch. For not having a script they sure do seem to be putting a lot of things in place.

After watching this one again, I’m not entirely sure why I found this show appealing.

 


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Ghost Hunters International – Duran Sanatorium/Rose Hall – S02E13

Costa Rica – Duran Sanatorium

For the first part of the investigation, GHI heads down to Costa Rica to investigate the Duran Sanatorium. This location has gone through many changes, from tuberculosis hospital, to a mental ward, to a minimum security prison, to a maximum security prison. It’s certainly seen it’s fair share of troubled patients and ill deeds. Not to mention, many of these patients and prisoners were mistreated.

First thing to note: Perhaps Paul could find a big boy shirt with sleeves on it to wear? Maybe this is the macho Costa Rican biker look, but it looks so tacky visiting a client dressed like that. I guess he was trying to show off his tattoos. Remember, you can’t be a true ghost hunter without them.

Not much happens during this investigation, but shock of shocks, the team actually does some debunking. Apparently the clothes line is mistaken for ghostly apparitions. The movement of the clothes can cause odd flickers and shadows in the room.

The investigation is pretty quiet, but at the reveal Robb and Barry spring some new evidence on the client. They have a picture of a blob in the window of the Administration building. For heaven’s sake, that could be a moth, a bird, a flicker of light or a flying squirrel. Ok, maybe not a flying squirrel, but it’s hardly gripping evidence of the paranormal.

The next photo is one featuring a blob out in the courtyard. Yes, there is something in the photo; a shapeless white, fuzzy, streak. It could be something paranormal, but it could just as easily be a bad reflection, the camera picking up the flash or even humidity. It’s interesting, but to say it’s paranormal is quite a reach.

But reach they do…

And finally they have the picture of a little girl sitting the steps. If you really want to stretch your imagination you can almost, sort of, maybe, create an outline of a little girl. It looks more like wishful thinking to me.

It should come as no surprise they say the place is haunted.

Jamaica – Rose Hall Great House

Next up is the Rose Hall Great House. Annie Hall, the "White Witch", practiced voodoo and apparently treated her slaves quite badly. She is also believed to have cast spells on them. Annie is also noted as killing her husband with arsenic.

First thing to note here is the sheer volume of noise coming from the jungle. You can barely hear them during their little side interviews and while they’re walking around. No EVPs for this location, which to me, makes the outcome somewhat interesting. She sounds like the sort who would stick around and raise some Cain.

Once again, I’m in shock as GHI kicks in the debunking gear! They debunk the idea of people capturing Annie sitting on her bed as people capturing their own flash. They also debunk the idea of people capturing Annie in the mirror. Kathy (the client) is skeptical so Robb does a live demo. He even goes so far as to show the image in the "evidence" photo was of a vase on the shelf (Bad camera angles will get you every time!). Finally they uncover the rattling bottles as a giant rat roaming around. I haven’t seen them do this much debunking the entire season! Robb was on fire! As an aside, I hope the Health Department wasn’t watching that bit with the rat.

It almost comes across that when Robb and team can’t be persuaded by bangs, pops and those damnable EMF meters they can really get to the root of the paranormal. They dismiss Rose Hall as being haunted, but Kathy doesn’t agree. She still clings to the idea the place is haunted.

So is this the last episode for the season? Why was it so short? Last season GHI belted out 23 episodes. For this season they bailed out at lucky number 13. They had such a huge break I figured a whole lot more episodes were coming. Do they not want to compete with Ghost Hunters and the new season or is there something else going on here? Are we going to see a lineup change on Ghost Hunters?

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American Paranormal – Eastern State Penitentiary – Part II

So where does all this leave us?

I fully admit that their findings don’t explain away paranormal activity for all people in all situations. However they bring up some very interesting questions and bring to light some serious shortcomings with how paranormal investigations are conducted.

Obviously, far too many investigators rely on the EMF detector to prove the existence of spirits and as we’ve seen that’s unreliable at best. Far too many things can effect those readings. Shutting off the lights will have no impact. Even if a location has no power the very equipment an investigator uses can give false positives. It’s not the absolute discovery tool it’s being made out to be. If anything, it’s results should be taken with a grain of salt. Personally, I think investigators need to ditch the EMF and that stupid K2 meter. They are nothing but faux-science that barely have root in the real world. As we’ve seen, to continue saying a spirit can be detected by such a device is proving to be completely inaccurate.

The results also show that the power of suggestion is a consuming force. People can easily convince themselves of paranormal activity, regardless of whether it truly exists or not. If you believe you’re in a haunted location or someone tells you paranormal activity is taking place you can create all sorts of experiences that may not be real. The mind can subconsciously generate sights, sounds and smells to give support to those beliefs. We’ve obviously seen the power of suggestion at work. Ryan is convinced a place is haunted even before he shows up. He doesn’t need evidence to support that claim, he just feels it. The more compelling the stories are about a location the more the Ghost Hunters try to support those claims even when the evidence is lacking. Everyone says the Stanley Hotel is haunted or Eastern State is haunted, so why would they go against the grain and say it isn’t? They hear what they want to hear in the evidence to make it real. This is the very reason we have urban legends. Stories just build and build.

And obviously the Ghost Adventures team feels a place is haunted, that’s why they chose it. They have it built up in their minds that they are battling the spirits, that dark energy is surrounding them and that they will taunt and mess with the spirits until they get evidence of their presence. When you go into a place with that mindset every bump, creak, bang, noise, car light, and reflection is a sure sign of the paranormal. When you’re that convinced of something, actual evidence isn’t really necessary. Your personal experiences are all you need.

This is perhaps the biggest problem with investigations, the personal experience. Investigators convince themselves something is going to happen and then they get caught up in it. Every noise feeds into the experience and heightens the senses and soon it doesn’t matter what’s really going on, the personal experience becomes the reality. I mean seriously, have you seen Ghost Adventures actually dismiss or debunk anything? They are so wound up as soon as they enter the building no matter what happens they’re going to have a paranormal experience.

I believe American Paranormal also shows the fatal flaw in how investigators work. Why doesn’t Ghost Hunters, Ghost Adventures and even Paranormal State leave their equipment running overnight with no one in the building so they can "get a feel for a place" and tell what noises are normal? Wouldn’t it be exceedingly useful to know which noises they could safely ignore and which ones to pay attention to? How interesting it would be to record a train at 3:00am or a truck rolling by at 12:30, that causes dishes to rattle or headlights to reflect off mirrors or beds to vibrate. Or they could listen to the sounds of all those animals scratching at the walls or crawling around in the attic. The fact that none of these groups do anything like this is a huge oversight and shows they aren’t applying a scientific method to what they do. Once again, the Ghost Hunters aren’t scientists.

And what about all those claims that lightning and thunderstorms can help the paranormal manifest? There may be some truth to that, but not in the way most investigators think. It can help "stir up the paranormal" because of the frequencies the pounding rain and rolling thunder give off. That low rumble could create the infrasound effect which can make you see things and experience phenomenon that really aren’t there. There’s a reason a ghost story sounds even creepier on a dark and stormy night!

Overall this was an extremely interesting show that brought to light dozens of potential fallacies on how investigations are conducted. The EMF meter is bunk, paranormal groups need to actually record an empty location before they investigate it, the power of suggestion can make you experience things that aren’t actually there and that a lot of ghost hunting theories fly in the face of known physics. Does this episode debunk every paranormal claim out there? Certainly not, but when you take the information from Ph.D. scientists and compare it with the science from a couple of plumbers or a trio of documentary film makers or even a college Journalism student it does make you question some of the results the investigators come up with.

 

Infrasound – The Ghost in the Machine

Research by Vic Tandy, a lecturer at Coventry University, suggested that the frequency 19 Hz was responsible for many ghost sightings. He was working late one night alone in a supposedly haunted laboratory at Warwick, when he felt very anxious and could detect a grey blob out of the corner of his eye. When he turned to face it, there was nothing.

The following day, he was working on his fencing foil, with the handle held in a vice. Although there was nothing touching it, the blade started to vibrate wildly. Further investigation led him to discover that the extraction fan was emitting a frequency of 18.98 Hz, very close to the resonant frequency of the eye (given as 18 Hz in NASA Technical Report 19770013810). This was why he saw a ghostly figure — it was an optical illusion caused by his eyeballs resonating.

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