For centuries, the paranormal has been tainted with acts of deception. In the spiritualist era, we found a lot of psychic medium preying on the vulnerable as a way to make money and gain a bit of fame. While many were proven to be frauds, psychical researchers felt they did witness genuine accounts of psychic abilities. They found that in some cases deception was not necessarily about trying to fool someone into thinking they had an ability that did not exist. They had in some ways proven to the researcher that they had the ability, but they couldn't necessarily perform on cue. In these instances, they felt like they had to be deceptive in order to keep up with their reputation.
When you look at some of the most famous paranormal cases in the World, you have examples where fraud has been displayed, yet the researchers involved still felt that there was something genuine going on. Look at the Enfield Haunting for example. Investigators Guy Lyon Playfair and Maurice Grosse spent close to 2 years investigating the claims. It brings into perspective what it takes to really do your groundwork when it comes to private cases. Unless there is a very obvious rational explanation, a lot of private cases cannot be solved in a 2-hour visit from a paranormal group. They admitted that they found the girls playing around and deceiving them on some occasions. We also have to remember they were children and making a few knocks or throwing something really is not beyond what you would expect of some young kids playing around. The investigators however took this in their stride and I don't think they would have invested 2 years out of their lives if they believed that everything that was being experienced was faked. They themselves had witnessed and experienced things that made them put aside the deception.
I started thinking not long ago about the reasons why people behave as they do. There is a lot of talk in the paranormal field about people blatantly faking things for fame or monetary gain on YouTube. When you think of deception, that is usually what automatically comes to mind. It is not the only reason though. Sometimes, people get amusement from it. I think back to an occasion many years ago now at Black Rock House. We were in the cellar when one of the guests felt a small rock hit them as if it had been thrown. She had been experiencing various things during the night and felt this was connected. No one else was near her and of course, the first question I asked was "did someone throw a rock". Everyone in the room denied it. I had to take their word for it. This is where things like a video camera are your best friend. Later that night, my brother and I watched back the footage which had been filmed using a Sony night shot camera with an IR light. While the room was dark, we could see everything that was happening. We watched as one of the guests picked up a stone, threw it and then laughed to himself. I was pretty angry and disappointed. The first thing I did was to contact the guest that experienced the rock-throwing to explain that she had not made the connection she thought she had. I am not the kind of person to pretend something is paranormal and while I could have stayed silent, I felt it was important to be honest with her about what I had found. The next step was to put that rock-throwing guest on the do not return list. As much as we would love to be able to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, human nature shows us that not everyone can be trusted. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
I then thought back to cases like the Enfield haunting which are so widely debated. Despite the confirmed acts of deception, people still felt things were happening. It makes you wonder if the family did actually fake some parts just so they would be believed? When you think about it, if you have things happening at home that is affecting you at such a high level that you need help, what happens when help arrives but they don't witness or experience it? You become worried they will label you as crazy. So you move a few things or throw something just to get them to stay and help you. It is very easy to understand at this level how these things can escalate or how you can get trapped in a lie just so someone will believe you. There is still a very real stigma attached to the paranormal, so I can relate and understand why a person would want so badly to be believed, especially when they have reached a point where they need help. While I can say I wouldn't do it, I also have never been in such a desperate situation.
The idea for this post came from a discussion I was participating in on the Battersea Poltergeist case. If you didn't catch the highly popular podcast on the BBC you are really missing out. It was fantastically done! They encouraged a discussion to get people's opinions on what really happened. One of my good friends Mike from PINK Paranormal raised the idea that he thought initially Shirley and her family did experience activity and possibly faked some of it just so someone would believe them. He then went on to talk about an experience he had with a client who was so desperate to be believed that she was caught faking activity. I asked Mike if he could share more about the encounter which he has kindly done.
In October of 2018 my team were preparing to arrive at a small two-story home. The property bordered a church whose parking lot butted against the side yard of the house. We were asked to park there by the home owner. It was not because the private driveway to the house couldn't accommodate four additional vehicles. The reason was because the owner wanted to speak to us before we went it inside the house. She wanted to talk to us about the house.
One by one my team arrived and parked where we were told around 6:30 pm. It was a chilly fall evening with a brisk wind. The owner, let's call her 'Angela' to protect her privacy, strode across her yard to meet us. After some mutual greetings and hello's, Angela told us, "We don't talk about the house while we're inside. It makes things happen." She launched into a list of happenings that ranged from voices, a man with a stovepipe hat, and to her daughter being assaulted in her bed. As she no doubt was reliving these events as she spoke, Angela broke into tears and cried. These were tears of someone who was scared and found herself in a desperate situation. This display for all purposes was very genuine.
Over the course of the evening Angela teared up a few more times and became very emotionally unstable at times. I had assigned a team member to be Angela's shadow for the course of the investigation.
It's with these emotional extremes that Angela exhibited fear, desperation and fragility. As a paranormal investigator, I'm looking for root causes of her claims but I'm also becoming emotionally involved. When people put their tears on full display, you can't help but feel for them.
I want to help Angela. I want to believe her.
Halfway through the investigation I walked the stairs to the second floor. That is when I saw the figurine that had been sitting on the window sill at the top of the steps laying on the floor nearly four feet away. I photographed the figurine where it was laying. There was a small piece that had broken off of it. I hesitated, but decided to move it back to the window sill. After all, I had a camera covering that whole area.
Back downstairs I told Angela what I'd found. Primarily I did this to let her know this because part of it was broken. She started to cry again. She told me that the figurines in the window were all blessed. She was very sad that it was broken.
I told one of my investigators to pay special attention to the camea at the top of the stairs. A few days after the investigation he emailed me the video. I watched as Angela picked up the figurine and toss it to the floor and walk away.
I was dismayed. Annoyed. Maybe a little angry. Had she been playing us for attention? I don't know, maybe, I thought at the time. Can I trust anything that she told us? I reserved myself to the audio that was recorded.
Do I have evidence of what Angela told us? EVP? Yes. We have verifiable audio. Personal experiences, there were. Mine involved a parabolic microphone alone on the second floor, some foul language and haughty breathing. Do I have anything on video? Well, yes. They both involve Angela. Given that I've seen her more or less plant the figurine, the other video of her blacking out or going into a trance, whichever you'd prefer to call it, now seemed to be more suspect.
In the follow-up with Angela, I showed her the video of her tossing the figurine. She claimed to have no knowledge of doing that. None. Zero. But, there it was. Regardless of no memory, that one act put her credibility on the spot.
Why did she do it? Was she so desperate for someone to believe her, that she felt she had to make sure we believed?
In the paranormal field, whether as an investigatior, as a witness or as someone in need, the most important asset any of us have is our personal integrity. Once that is compromised, who can you expect to believe you?
Regardless of whether an EVP was captured claiming ownership of Angela's soul. Yes, such a clip exists. Regardless of whether she was really going into a trance, and who is to say the "My Soul" EVP wasn't misheard or is in fact Angela, her credibility was called into question.
At the end of the day I am torn. My sympathy for Angela remains. However, what could have been a credible haunting ( despite evidence to back that up) has me left wondering how I feel had I not seen Angela planting evidence.
After chatting to several colleagues, it seems that this kind of things happens more often than we would like. While there are people that fake things either to be funny or maybe even famous, we can't ignore cries for help. So this is where I want to start a discussion! Do you have a case where you believe there really was something paranormal going on, but because of deception in other areas you had to cast it aside? What do you do in circumstances where people just want to be believed? What ethics also need to be considered in these kinds of circumstances?
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