Monday, August 30, 2010

Sensible investigations.

Something Southern Writer pointed out to me, and which is deserving of further propagation, is the story of an amateur ghosthunter who was looking for a ghost train but was hit by a real one. The story was picked up by the UK press too, here.

Looking at the picture of that bridge, it is not a good place to be. There is no room to stand back and let a train pass by, the only options are run or jump when a train comes. So being on the bridge is not sensible.

It's also not a good place to try for a photo. Better to be at the end of the bridge, safely clear of the tracks, with the camera covering as much of the bridge as possible. Trying to take a photo, even of a real train, at the trackside at night will get no more than a blur. Trying to convince anyone that it's a photo of a ghost train will just invite derision. Stay clear of the tracks. It won't help your case if you are pureed by a few hundred tons of steel. It'll probably hurt a lot too.

So, be sensible. You're going out in the dark, sometimes the pitch dark. Check it out by day first. Is there a safe place to duck into to avoid live hazards? Are there holes you could break a leg in? Are there trip hazards? Could you describe to the emergency services exactly where you are and how to get there, should the need arise? Is your phone fully charged? If it's pay-as-you-go, as mine is, is there credit on it? Can you get reception in that area - and if not, have you told anyone where you'll be and when to expect you back? Check everythng in daylight first. Sometimes you'll even find a logical explanation for the phenomenon, such as (perhaps) a distant reflective sign, that will help explain an alleged haunting. That will save you spending the entire night in the cold and dark.

I have no problem with amateur ghosthunters, they have time to look at things I don't have time or funding to investigate. As with amateur astronomers, they will likely produce a lot of very useful information.

However, the collected information is no use if you die before telling anyone about it. So the first priority has to be - get out of the investigation intact.

Remember, we are trying to prove the existence of ghosts. We are not supposed to be in a hurry to join them.

That day will come, soon enough. When it does, there will be a host of people who won't believe we even exist.

And those we prove ourselves to will be of no use if they are a streak of red paste on a railway line.

First rule of investigation: make sure you can get out of it alive.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Lemon Tree Rider.

The language in some of the videos of this event is somewhat intemperate. I'm sure the light is genuine because there are multiple observations by different people. I'm just not sure it's a ghost.

First, an apology for vanishing for so long (to anyone who gives a damn). Life has been hectic this year and weather has been dreadful so I've had nothing at all to report. It rained every day through most of June, all of July and up until a few days ago. Not good ghosthunting weather at all.

Now, the story. This is an Australian alleged haunting, which is supposed to be the ghost of a motorcyclist killed on a road called Lemon Tree Passage. Rumour has it that the ghost follows speeding drivers to persuade them to slow down and appears, Candyman-style, if you hit 111 miles per hour.

Now, the idea that seeing a ghost behind you would cause you to slow down must sound strange to most people. I'd stop because I'm actively trying to find and record them but I know most people's reaction would be to push their car to warp speed.

The magical 111 miles per hour seems unlikely too, unless the ghost is set up along the road with a police-style speed camera. Indeed, some commentators claim the light appears when they drive at much lower speeds but always well over the speed limit. The other aspect is that the driver must have just passed their driving test within the last year.

It sounds to me more like a rite-of-passage challenge than a haunting. Even so, there is the light to consider, which has been filmed multiple times and resembles the single headlight of a motorcycle following the car.

It might really be there. It might even be a ghost. Or it might be a live motorcyclist driving along behind, with no idea that the car in front thinks he is in any way supernatural.

Another possibility is in the camera. The images are total darkness apart from occasional glimpses of bits of passing foliage and in once case, what might be a street lamp or a passing plane. In those conditions, the camera might well be set to 'night-shot' or equivalent.

Many cameras now sport one or two infrared LED's for their night-shot capability. Digital cameras see infrared and show it on screen as white or as shades of grey. It is possible that what many of those films show is a reflection of the camera's own infrared LED in the back window of the car.

Of course, that might not be the case at all. It might still be a real ghostly night rider following these speeding youths, but I have to consider all alternatives. In any case, it would be sensible to debunk this ghost whether it's real or not, to stop the lunacy of inexperienced drivers driving at 111 miles an hour in total darkness. They have some large wild animals in Australia and animals don't always check for traffic before crossing the road.

Australia is on the other side of the planet so I'm not going to pop over and see for myself. It would be interesting to see whether any local ghosthunters take up the challenge (with a professional driver) and ideally with a roof-mounted rear-facing camera to avoid reflections from the rear window.

If that could be done, and they still saw a light. and it didn't pass them when they slowed down, I'd be very interested indeed.