Thursday, July 29, 2010

FACT OR FAKED: Off the Deep End; Houseguest

SyFy - Original Air Date: 7/29/10

The group assembles, as usual, to try to find cases worth investigating.  Sacramento lights pulsing in the sky could just be a flare hoax.  Kitchen poltergeist ends up looking like fishing line, and there are explanation videos for the hoax online.  North Carolina alien crossing looks like a composite digital effect.  Good calls on those, so let's get on to the cases actually investigated.

Raystown Bay, PA: In a man-made lake is something that looks like the Loch Ness monster, "Raystown Ray."  There's only a single photo, but the case has eyewitnesses, which is enough to send the team to check it out.  They decide that the sightings could be rotting logs (a well-known lake monster theory), so they head out and almost immediately find a floating log, made to order, and tow it around.  Some of the photos look good, but not as good as the photo they're working from.  Next they try some black PVC pipe, with a keel and a board monster head and humps. Looks good again, but Jael doubts a local could have pulled off such a hoax unobserved.  So they go sonar sweeping and diving -- at night, naturally (stupidly) -- and get some sonar hits (though I'd be more impressed if they had a pro fisherman interpreting the data).  Nothing turns up, so they go fishing for monsters, but they only snag the line on the bottom.  They decide that maybe there's something down there, though it's still unexplained.  (Still looks Photoshopped to me.)

The Ghost Writer, writes answers to questions on Polaroid pictures, as they develop -- supposedly on cameras brought by anyone.  Though (journalist) Chu-Lan isn't convinced, and it looks like a cheap magic trick to me, they decide to check it out.  Unfortunately, Bill - who had the "believer" cases last 2 weeks -- is leading this team, and if the first hadn't turned out "real," I'd be laying odds that this one turns out to be "real, too. The photos still look like a trick to me,  and it's odd that the spirit's messages get clearer and easier to read as time goes on: almost like a hoaxer learning to improve his craft.  After some witness interviews and vortex mumbo-jumbo, they start taking pictures: nada.  So, they're thinking maybe something man-made.  They make some acetates and double expose the Polaroid film in a dark room, then re-insert the film in the cartridge, but the test proves inconclusive; most of the shots mysteriously don't turn out.  (Reload problem, maybe/)  Next they try words on Plexiglas, in front of the photographer, but they see reflections on the plexi.  So, thinking it's maybe supernatural, they use ground penetrating radar to look for bodies buried beneath the house.  They find some bones, but they're cow and chicken bones, so, nada there, too.  Voice analysis again finds "truth" in the witnesses -- though again, I doubt the validity of this test.  Again, they call this one real/unexplained.

When the first case turned up "real," I had high hopes for Bill's case being "fake," thereby preserving the balance of the show and giving Bill some credibility in my mind.  (Frankly, he seems like a "true believer.")  Sadly, instead, we got 2 "unexplained/real" conclusions on cases that seem, to me, to not have been investigated enough.  The Ghost Writer, particularly, I think is some kind of magician's trick; Polaroids respond to pressure or something (if I remember), like a magic slate.  But, again, no professional magicians are consulted, and even photo expert Chu-Lan is stumped (but hasn't pushed hard enough).

I'm hoping that this show will now have a "two hoax" episode, though since this type of program caters to believers, I'm worried that will never happen. Again, I'd urge them to go more the way of Mythbusters than Ghost Hunters or UFO Hunters. Try harder; keep at it; call in better experts.  Don't play your audience for chumps.

(I have no idea why this episode was listed as "Caretaker: Cutter" - "Raystown; Ghost Writer" would have seemed more appropriate.)

Revision Note 8/2/10: Apparently, per a viewer comment, the show was mis-titled when broadcast, and is actually called "Off the Deep End; Houseguest."  I have re-titled the post, but kept the original post intact.


Anonymous said...

At the bottom of this article, you added "(I have no idea why this episode was listed as "Caretaker: Cutter" - "Raystown; Ghost Writer" would have seemed more appropriate.)"

When I recorded it Thursday, Zap2It.COM (my primary TV listings guide) also indicated the title was "Caretaker; Cutter." Since I had no reason to doubt that at the time, I didn't cross-check it against Syfy's schedule page. Last night (8/01), Zap2It listed a "new" episode, titled "Off the Deep End; Houseguest" at 11:05 PM. I taped it and found out it is the same episode from Thursday. When I checked the Syfy schedule page, I found that it listed the same title. The "Caretaker; Cutter" episode is scheduled to be the sixth one to air.

I have neither a Google nor Blogger account, so this is going to be anonymous.

Stephen D. Sullivan said...

Thanks. My DVR caught the episode under that name last night too -- and it seems a more logical name.

Now, of course, my DVR will think it's recorded both those episodes, and miss "Caretaker" when it actually comes on. Clearly, someone screwed up the listing when sending to the cable services.