This week, we interrupt your regularly scheduled news headlines for a gratuitous top ten list of the Who Forted? staff’s favorite paranormal news of 2008. Clichè, we know, but there’s so many great paranormal stories that we never got to report on in 2008, being only two months old and all. We’ll get back to the regular news headlines next week.
So, what paranormal news articles were our favorites this year? Read on, dear viewer, and find out in Who Forted?‘s first annual Top Ten Favorite Paranormal Headlines of the Year!
#10 : Creepy Gnome Terrorizes Argentinean Town
Early this year, March 11 to be exact, a report came out from London’s The Sun proclaiming that citizens in a North Argentinean town were “living in fear” after several sightings of what they described as a “creepy gnome.” As luck would have it, a group of teenagers managed to catch a glimpse of the gnome on video. One of the frightened teens even told The Sun, “one of my friends was so scared after seeing that thing that we had to take him to the hospital.”
Now, we realize that this could easily be a not-so-elaborate hoax, but considering how genuinely creepy the video actually is, we ended up watching it more times that we can count over the last year. If you haven’t seen it by now, here’s your chance.
Garden gnomes are creepy as it is. Garden gnomes that walk sideways in the dark? Even creepier.
#9 : The MidSouth “Black-Lung” Incident
Coming in at ninth place on our list is a little incident that happened down in Louisville, Kentucky. That is, if you consider over 30 convention-goers contracting a horrible respiratory infection “little”.
This year for the MidSouth Paranormal Convention, event host Keith Age chose the Executive West Hotel as the event building, probably because they were offering it super cheap. Well, guess what else they offered super cheap? Infections to anyone that breathed.
According to several bulletins that were posted on paranormal websites all over the net, over thirty individuals, including the hosts of the popular paranormal podcast GhostlyTalk, were confirmed ill with a respiratory virus that doctors said was “caused by bacteria that lives in carpeting.”
To date, Keith Age has refused to publicly address the incident, even after the Health Department was forced to step in.
#8 : Possession Case Declared Genuine, No Celebs Involved
On March 13, Dr. Richard E. Gallagher, a board certified psychiatrist and associate professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College, publicly declared in The New Oxford Review that he had documented a case of demonic possession that, in his professional opinion, was genuine.
A woman that Dr. Gallagher simply referred to as “Julia” was documented by a team of psychiatrists, priests, nuns (with medical and psychological training), and several lay assistants as levitating, speaking foreign languages that she had never learned, and exhibiting enormous strength. Of course there was the traditional growling, swearing, and violence to boot, but there were a few more interesting things observed as well…
“She commonly reported information about the relatives, household composition, family deaths and illnesses, etc., of members of our team, without ever having observed or been informed about them,” Gallagher told WorldNetDaily. “As an example, she knew the personality and precise manner of death (i.e., the exact type of cancer) of a relative of a team member that no one could conceivably have guessed.”
In the article, Gallagher goes on to talk about talk about the effect the exorcism ritual had on the assistants, the multiple voices that emerged from her body, and how “Julia” levitated for 30 minutes despite the efforts of six people attempting to hold her down.
With all of these incredible things being documented by a team of PhDs and certified clergy, we couldn’t help but notice that there wasn’t a single paranormal “celebrity” involved in the case. No television crews, no teenage demon hunters, no “psychics”, and a complete lack of any John Zaffis or Lorraine Warren involvement. Could be that this case really is genuine.
#7 : Vatican Says Belief In Aliens is A-OK
Another one of our favorite paranormal news headlines of 2008 was when the Catholic church declared that belief in extraterrestrials does not contradict a belief in God, vindicating the hundreds of arguments that I had with the faculty of North Rome Christian Academy during my unfortunate stay as a young lad.
On May 13th, the Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, told reporters in an interview that any attempt to rule out the possibility of the existence of extraterrestrial life would be like “putting limits on God’s creativity” and that if such intelligent life existed, they would all be part of God’s creation in the first place.
Suck an egg, Mr. Youse, I knew that I was right.
#6 : Brian Harnois Retires From the Paranormal
Last July, in a move that had us actually planning a party, Brian Harnois announced his retirement from the paranormal community. Our initial report, while late, said it best:
On 7/23/2008 Brian Harnois, after being fired consecutively from both ‘Ghost Hunters’ and ‘Ghost Hunters International’, announced that he would be “retiring from television ghost hunting” to pursue a career in, of all things, firefighting; a pretty ironic move from a man who’s catch phrase is derived from his tendency to flee in terror at any sign of danger.
Fortunately for home owners in the Rhode Island area, Brian Harnois’ much celebrated retirement from the paranormal scene lasted only about 14 glorious days, during which the collective intelligence of the community experienced a considerable rise, only to plummet back to the earth in a flaming downward spiral as, two whole weeks into his “retirement,” Brian Harnois announced his return to ghost hunting. Or as he so eloquently put it, his “coming out party.”
Unfortunately, we never got to have our celebration, but for two whole weeks the paranormal community was a whole lot more intelligent.
#5 : Chip Coffey Deemed Too Creepy To Work With Kids, Gets Fired
Early this year, Paranormal State’s go-to psychic Chip Coffey was given a chance to shine when the A&E channel needed some quick filler to keep the Paranormal State fans’ attention as they readied new episodes. Their solution came in Psychic Kids : Children of a Paranormal, a show that documents Vigo the Carpathian Chip Coffey as he mercilessly searches for the perfect young vessel in which to continue his reign of terror ”misunderstood” children who have learning disabilities psychic powers in order to exploit them on national television train them to better profit from use their delusions gifts.
The promotional material claims that there’s a lot of kids who “fear their own powers and feel isolated by their peers.” Psychic Kids aims to combat those feelings by scooping these children up and dumping them at the feet of a creepy old man who tells them that their powers are real and that the monsters under their beds are not make-believe, in fact, they’re actually demons and dead people!
As you can probably imagine, the show didn’t go over well with television viewers, who called it “child abuse” and “exploitation”. It lasted only six episodes before it got axed by the network.
#4 : The Peeping Martian Video
On May 30th, Jeff Peckman held a press conference in Colorado to show the media an exclusive piece of video “evidence” that he hoped would jump start his initiative to form an Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission to prepare the city of Denver to deal with the arrival of space aliens.
The grainy nightvision video, purportedly shot in 2003 at the home of a man by the name of Stan Romanek, shows what appears to be a small “creature” poking it’s head just above the window frame and peeking inside. A single still frame from the footage was released to the public but the video was kept under wraps. Eventually though, the rather unconvincing full clip hit the internet via YouTube, but is continuously deleted because, surprise surprise, Romanek is holding on to the clip because it’s due to be included in a forthcoming documentary. Ka-Ching.
So far, no conclusive results have come from anyone studying the footage, but that hasn’t stopped a lot of people from believing the hype. Luckily, there were a few skeptics that decided to go the extra mile when this video was announced, namely The Rocky Mountain Paranormal Society (who just so happen to be regular contributers to Who Forted?). They went out and spent a little cash on a rubber alien rental, aimed their nightvision camera towards a window, worked a little CGI magic, and created their own peeping alien video. Hilariously enough, once the video hit YouTube, it caught fire. For under $100 they created a viral clip that was actually mistaken for the Romanek video and got featured on CNN, FOX, and other news outlets.
Aside from all this, we can’t help but wonder why anyone didn’t ask the most pressing question of all: wouldn’t the aliens, who can apparently travel to earth in undetectable space craft from places we can’t get to, have better things to do than peer into the windows of a retired old man? That’s why the Romanek alien video is our fourth favorite paranormal headline of 2008.
#3 : Bigfoot Isn’t Dead!
On August 15th in Palo Alto, California, renowned Bigfoot hoaxer Tom Biscardi, along with Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer, held a press conference proclaiming that they were in possession of a Sasquatch body. It was in a freezer at an “undiscosed location” and experts such as Curt Nelson of the University of Minnesota and Richard Klein, a paleontologist at Stanford University had been called in for scientific evaluation.
Photos were handed out at the well-attended press conference that showed an ape-like creature in a freezer with it’s tongue, and guts, hanging out. How was the body obtained? Well, Whitton and Dryer claimed to have found the bigfoot in the Georgia mountains after:
A) chasing it into the woods after a felon shot it
B) stumbling upon a family of bigfoot and taking this one out
C) finding the corpse while hiking in the mountains
D) all of the above
The apparent answer would be “D” as they posted videos to YouTube claiming all three (the videos have since been removed). These guys were obviously off to a less than credible start, but that didn’t stop Biscardi from buying the freezer (filled to the brim with ice) for a reported $50,000.
When asked how much money his group (Searching For Bigfoot, Inc.) intended to make on their discovery, Biscardi responded by saying, “as much as we can.”
Well, as many people had already guessed, the Searching For Bigfoot team was less than impressed when the water started thawing. Steve Kulls, Bigfoot researcher, explains what happened in the best excerpts from Biscardi’s site:
On August 16th, 2008 the freezer containing the alleged corpse arrived with the Searching For Bigfoot Team. I arrived on location at 6PM to provide initial verification examination, biohazard control and consult for security measures at the location. At that time the ice was being thawed slowly without aid, to prevent any decomposition of the alleged corpse. We estimated that the freezer and its contents weighed over 1500 pounds and it would take several days or longer to thaw completely.
On August 17th, 2008 Searching for Bigfoot Team Director of Field Operations, TJ Biscardi and myself, were up early to discover that some hair was now exposed. I extracted some from the alleged corpse and examined it and had some concerns. Bob Schmalzbach arrived and concurred. We burned said sample and said hair sample melted into a ball uncharacteristic of hair
At that time we contacted Mr. Biscardi who gave us permission to begin an expedited melting process. We set up a salamander heater to heat the freezer. Within one hour we were able to see the partially exposed head, as I was now able to touch it, I was able to feel that it seemed mostly firm, but unusually hollow in one small section. This was yet another ominous sign. Within the next hour of thaw, a break appeared up near the feet area. As the team and I began examining this area near the feet, I observed the foot which looked unnatural, reached in and confirmed it was a rubber foot.
Bob Schmalzbech, a Searching for Bigfoot member, called the discovery “heartbreaking”. We call it poetic justice. After years of scamming people out of their money with Bigfoot hoaxes, Biscardi got scammed himself, and to the tune of fifty grand.
Looks like Bigfoot isn’t dead after all.
#2 : Paranormal State Proven Fake, No One Surprised
2008 saw the second season of A&E’s Paranormal State, a television show based around the exploits of the sneakily named Penn State Paranormal Research Society (Penn State University does not endorse nor affiliate with the group). The critics hated the “demon”-filled first season, but that didn’t stop people from watching, so a second season hit the airwaves soon after filled with more demons, ghosts, insane “equipment”, and even satellites UFO’s.
The show gained rabid endorsement from Darkness Radio’s own Dave Shrader (who introduced them at their annual UNIVCON conference, interviewed them for an A&E web-special, and guest-starred on their “UFO” episode), and it regularly featured guest psychic Chip Coffey (previously mentioned creepy Psychic Kids guy) and Lorraine Warren (known for her hand in the famous “Amityville Horror” hoax).
Considering the involvement of people like Warren and Chris Moon (the $1,000 “telephone-to-the-dead” scam), there were already a lot of red flags about the show’s believability. In fact, the show’s executive producer even admitted that the show was scripted. From wikipedia:
“We try to identify where we get our discovery moments, our ‘Ah-ha!’ moments,” Gazzerro told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Information about the event under investigation may also be held back from the students in order to create dramatic tension, and only situations which will have a conclusive outcome are investigated. “We may have information we don’t give to [the PRS team],” Gazzerro said, “but we need to make sure [the episode is] produceable.” Story arcs are also outlined for each “character” on the show, and the production team has publicly expressed its hope that a romantic relationship will develop between Buell and one of the women on the series.
The critics think it’s fake. The producers say it’s fake. The associations with frauds would lead any rational person to believe it’s fake. Yet the Paranormal State cast claim they’re the real deal. Well, it was only a matter of time before a client finally came forward to cauterize what everyone else had been saying for a year prior. On October 29th Kelli Ryan, a former “client” of PRS featured on the Paranormal State episode “The Messenger” came out to talk about her miserable experience when it came to filming the show. Touched on was the fact that “psychic” Chip Coffey actually knew every bit of information about the case before the show even filmed, that the actions of the cast were scripted, and that PRS had less regard for their “clients” than they did for a produceable episode.
Here’s a few excerpts from the statements that she shared in an interview with Kirby Robinson from Eye on the Paranormal :
“Eric Leven interviewed me by phone twice. He consulted Chip Coffey with all the details about our case before they decided to do the show.
On July 1st Sumit David, A&E Producer of Paranormal State came to our home, interviewed us on video and did the walk through on video so Chip Coffey could see everything in our home prior to his coming here. We showed him every place in and around our home where we have phenomenon and those are the exact places he picked up his psychic perceptions. They asked us to leave to do their walk through filming with Chip Coffey on the first day. We were told it was so he would not pick up anything from us regarding the dangerous entity in our hallway. We already knew he had all the information about Bill Wells, our ghost. We had to go away so we wouldn’t see that they were doing nothing about the entity we were asking help getting rid of. All the ‘proof’ about Bill Wells was sent to them to prove we had a haunting to add credence to our claim about the entity in our hall.
Eric Leven asked if we could send documentation that Bill Wells lived in our home and died in an accident. We sent the news article detailing Bill’s accident and funeral along with deeds to show the list of former owners. At Eric Leven’s request we sent photographs of all the areas of our home where the phenomenon occurred regularly with detailed descriptions.
Sumit David promised us nothing on the show would be done which would be injurious to Bill Wells’ loved ones.
We shared with PRS and A&E a sad history of Bill’s death. Bill’s death hurt the entire city of Gold Beach… Ryan interviews the first EMT man on the scene of the accident, which is spliced with photos from the police report and a voiceover of Heather and Michelle talking about Bill’s injuries.
They knew all of the horrendous details about Bill’s physical injuries and the photos were from the police report. But what they don’t bother to inform the viewer is that out of respect for Bill and his family, friends and entire community, they had kept that part a secret. Until Paranormal State decided to expose it to the world with no thought of the pain and suffering that such an act would do.
A&E promised us they would not show these accident photos. No one in Gold Beach, including Bill’s wife, knew the extent of his injuries, other than head trauma. That his head was crushed and severed was kept secret. This was devastating to those who loved Bill… He would only be 63 this December 8th. His friends, widow, children, and friend who drove the vehicle and survived the accident are all still alive and most still live in Gold Beach. These photos have been a secret for 30 years. The ‘cover-up’ the town argued about, the secret they sensed, was the heart-breaking truth of the bloody death of a beloved citizen. The responding officers, doctors and survivor of the crash kept this secret to protect all of Bill Well’s loved ones from an ugly image so that they could remember the smiling man as he was in life, not the broken body who was buried.
The PRS crew ‘faked’ cold spots in our home. They explained to us that they were using a six-pack of beer to attract Bill and draw him out so they could photograph him. I thought it seemed ridiculous and said as much to the producer, Sumit David, who explained to us, ‘I really just think it’s about young college kids getting a hold of a six pack…’
After the episode was aired, I realized the ‘Cold Spot’ Ryan and Chip were ‘discovering’ in our guest room was one of the Budweiser cans! If you are forewarned you can actually see that it is a can of beer on the monitor which appears to be a glowing red orb. I did save these beer cans with their fingerprints in the event they wish to deny their actions.
I confronted Sumit David on the phone asking why they aired such a deception. He responded by explaining that ‘Ryan thought he was really onto something and he appeared so sincere that they left it in because Ryan’s fans really enjoy his innocent on-air persona of sincerity and devotion to his quest…’”
Despite these rather explosive allegations, the information was received by the paranormal community with not much more than a yawn and a shrug. Why? Because no one in the community ever really gave a damn about the show in the first place.
#1 : Ghost Hunters Jumps the Shark
You had to see this one coming didn’t you? That’s right, our number one spot goes to the event that shook the ghost hunting community to it’s core. The giants of the paranormal investigation community, the Atlantic Paranormal Society, were caught blatantly faking evidence on the live Halloween episode of Ghost Hunters, the television show that previously acted as a yardstick by which to measure all other paranormal TV shows.
There’s no need to go into detail about exactly what happened in the episode (we’ve blogged about it in the news for the last three weeks with links pointing to references all over the paranormal/skeptic blogosphere), but what it boils down to is this: Grant Wilson faked a ghostly tug on his collar. Poorly. On live television. Three times. While the exact method of how he did it is disputed, it’s generally agreed that it involved some string and his right hand, which oddly enough, never moved from the awkward position at his side even when “startled.”
Since the infamous Halloween incident now dubbed “Collargate,” Both Grant Wilson and Jason Hawes have firmly denied any fraud, even as the evidence against them continues to pile up from determined skeptics and disgruntled former fans. They’ve seen their official message board numbers drop by around five thousand members and any references to Collargate are deleted and posters banned, TAPS “Family” cases have gone down dramatically, and a poll conducted on the Sci-Fi Channel website declared that an astounding 89% of viewers now doubt, or previously doubted the TAPS evidence.
We’ve talked for several weeks about the effects that the fraud has had on the paranormal community, but not enough people are asking why it happened. I’m sure that many people would guess that ratings had something to do with it, but is that really the case? Well, Google might be able to help us out with that. Enter : Google Trends, a portion of Google’s website that lets you monitor popular search trends as far back as several years. Utilizing this tool, it’s easy to measure the relative popularity of a certain subject by way of comparison.
Observe 2008′s search trends for rival show ‘Paranormal State‘:
Now, compare that to the search trends for ‘the Atlantic Paranormal Society’:
Quite the slump they were going through there from mid-July to late August, huh? Meanwhile, Paranormal State experiences a nice spike of interest. We should also note that Google trends measures the amount of mentions in major news media. Those “A”, “B”, and “C’s” on the Paranormal State graph represent mentions in major media outlets. TAPS had none. That kind of slump is the kind of thing that would have television producers scrambling for a way to spike the ratings… and they did just that. Notice the major spike in search interest for TAPS immediately after the Halloween episode incident. That’s no coincidence.
As of this writing, Jason Hawes just excitedly announced that Ghost Hunters was renewed with Sci-Fi for another two years with the addition of a new spin off titled Ghost Hunters : The Next Generation (the third Ghost Hunters spin off in less than two years). They got their viewers back, but only at the expense of their own integrity and the trust of their fans… and they couldn’t be happier about it. For that, we simply had to give Collargate the number one spot on our top ten list. As Mark Twain once said, “virtue has never been as respectable as money.”
We’re looking forward to Jason, Grant and gang providing much more fodder for Who Forted? over the next two years.
So there you have it, our very own year-end list, something no zine is complete without. What’d you think? Is there anything that we didn’t mention that should have been there? Was our ordering out of place? Share your own top ten list with us in the comments!
Thanks for coming by and continuing to make Who Forted? a success. We’ll see you again in the new year with your regularly scheduled WFNews, and all the articles, comics, and features that you love!