Saturday, June 30, 2012

CHASING UFOS - Dirty Secrets

NatGeo - Original Air Date: 6/29/12

The team, Ben, Ryder, & James, goes to Fresno, CA, to check out triangular UFO sightings.  They talk to witnesses, one of whom thinks he saw one crash, and he has some fuzzy video, too. They poke around the desert and a strange abandoned tunnel at night and see cars/vans that may (or may not) be watching them.  Some believers say there is a hidden underground base in the area.  They talk to another witness who claims to have been burned from watching a UFO.  They talk to another pair of witnesses who have a fuzzy nighttime video of lights in the sky.  They set up for another night investigation near the airport, where strange (?) lights are seen.  Ryder goes poking around a remote section of the airport and apparently provokes a flyover by a military helicopter.  (They also spot the International Space Station zooming by.)  Researching later, they find the abandoned tunnel was used to build a hydro electric plant. Running the plates on the suspicious white van yields nothing (at least by Ryder).  Unfortunately, they fled from the other mysterious vehicle, rather than approaching it.  Tests on the items of the "burned" witness show nothing unusual.  Turns out the 144th wing of the Air National Guard is stationed in Fresno, but James thinks there are still UFOs here.  Ben & Ryder believe that the sightings are a combination of misidentified civilian and military aircraft.

After two shows, this series shows promise, though they need to stop looking for evidence (other than lights in the sky) at night, and start searching places during the day.  Too many of these shows feature 2 night-shot segments per episode, to no good end.  Apparently, this is going to be one of them.

CHASING UFOS - Texas is for Sightings

NatGeo - Original Air Date: 6/29/12

Radiation scientist Ben McGee, tech and reconnaissance expert Erin Ryder ("Ryder" from Destination Truth), and UFOlogist James Fox form the team in this new UFO-hunting show.  The first episode starts in Stephenville, Texas, where they're investigating a (pretty fuzzy-looking) police officer's video showing a light in the sky.  Ryder describes herself as "Bad Cop," James as "Good Cop," and Ben declares that he's the "Other Bad Cop," which gives me initial hope this show may be more skeptical than the usual UFO shows -- where belief in aliens seems too often to be the first option.  The program features the usual witness interviews and re-creations (sadly including CGI UFOs -- though somewhat more sedate ones than are often depicted in shows like this), as well as artists' renditions, town-hall meetings (like Finding Bigfoot) and, of course, blurry videos of lights in a dark sky.  A 2008 video of a string of lights seems to correspond with many of the town hall reports, though it looks like military flares to me.  The team heads out into the countryside with a witness in tow to see what they can see (& film), and they all do the traditional "night investigation," tromping around in the dark.  They see a "mysterious" light; we'll see if they follow up.  (They don't.)

Then they talk to an ex-military man, Jonathan Alexander, who supposedly investigated UFOs and believes scientists should be able to study them openly.  He thinks something is there, but what it may be is a different question.  He does believe that mass hysteria plays a role in sightings, but the thinks Stephenville has a number of high-quality witnesses.  Then they set up an overflight by small planes in formation, which makes the aircraft look -- even in the day -- like one single object, but the planes are not silent at 4000 feet (as the UFOs are reported to be).  Then the team looks at a broad daylight saucer video from 3 months after the 2008 mass sighting.  The team is suspicious; it looks too good to be true.  James thinks the witness is credible.  Maybe, but I have issue with the fact that the show is giving us only teasing clips, not enough for context of the video(s) in question: How did it start?  How did it end?  Would you, as a witness, stop filming what's clearly a flying saucer after a few minutes?  Did the video go until the the thing vanished?  They don't say and don't show us.

Next up, another witness who observed (though a gunsight) a craft above him large enough to "land an aircraft on," and then some local library research.  An 1891 newspaper article describes lights in the sky followed by an object/meteor exploding 300 feet in the sky showering the area with bits of metal that set small fires.  So they go looking for evidence of that crash/explosion -- at night, which makes no sense.  (But all these shows seem to need 2 night investigations.)  And they spot something that looks like a flying saucer.  But are they being punk'd?  Maybe after the break, they'll tell us... But they don't.  This part of the episode reveals that Ryder is a "skeliver" -- a skeptic and a believer combined, so the team has one believer, one skeptic, and one in between (though she seems to be leaning toward believer to me).  And that's how this episode shakes out, with all of our team still where they started: one convinced, on unconvinced, and one leaning toward convinced.

Overall, not a bad show.  It's basically Hunting Bigfoot with UFOs, and has many of the same issues/flaws.  The cast is likable, but the science not rigorous enough. I'd have liked to know if they checked flight patterns and military records for any of the sightings.  And, as I said at the top, I wanted to see all the videos in context, with start and stop points (you can time lapse the boring parts).

Friday, June 29, 2012

FACT OR FAKED: Into the Vortex; Tavern Shapeshifter

SyFy - Original Air Date: 6/19/2012

Dismissed out of hand:  Portland Trailblazing UFOs: Lights flying fast in the sky are merely CGI trickery (watch how it passes the trees & power lines).  Champ 2.0: Might be humps of a sea monster in Lake Champlain, but is more likely just waves on the water.  Sky Ribbon: Not a shapeshifter or UFOs, merely a flock of bats.

Cases taken up this week:
Into the Vortex:  The Oregon Vortex... Laws of physics appear broken at this longstanding tourist trap, where people seem to change sizes and things seem to roll uphill.  Oddly, as in the site's legend, the team's horses don't want to enter the area.  Then our heroes set up a black background to check if the height change is a perspective illusion.  (But I think they've failed to take into account uneven ground, and platforms at uneven levels -- even though the platforms may be nearly level.  Many small variations can lead to large effects.)  Brooms standing?  The sloped floor does it.  Ball rolling uphill? Optical illusion; it's really downhill.  The "Mystery House" is built to confuse human senses & make people dizzy.  But, they do a pendulum test to see if there's some quirk of gravity or magnetism. The pendulum does strange things.  But rumor says that magnets are buried around the site, and though the team gets some hits on metal detectors, the site will not let them dig.  "It's like an interactive magic show," Austin concludes, "all optical illusions."

My family has been to one of these sites, The Mystery Spot, in Upper Michigan numerous times, and -- while we love it -- we know it's all perspective, suggestion, and illusion.  Fun until you figure it out, though, and even after that if you like the "joke."  You'd be surprised how many people are completely fooled.  It's a pretty cool illusion.  And the "vortex" in the show has pretty much the same "legend" as the Spot we've visited.  I think these may have been some kind of 1930-50s franchise or something, dotted across the US.  Oregon, California, Michigan, etc.  They're all so alike -- right down to the patter -- it can't be coincidence.  Perhaps it was just one guy moving across the US, building them as he went. Is there one near you?

Tavern Shapeshifter: An amorphous shape caught on video that seems to sit in a bar booth and then disappear.  Bug on the lens?  They don't think it matches, but I think they're using the wrong bug too far from the lens.  Fabric hoax?  Too mechanical and defined.  Fog cloud & fan?  Close, but too obviously foggy.  Ghost hunt time.  (Ugh!)  And they get odd camera and equipment malfunctions that Bill likes but seem to prove nothing to me.  Turns out the "shapeshifter" actually was a bug on a lens with some all-too-human pareidolia -- which they figure out by more careful video analysis.  I'm not sure why they took this case, as they had another, similar one (at a gas station) just a few weeks ago.  But, apparently, we need a "ghost" nearly every week.

Another overall good show in a good season. Even when some weird stuff happens, the FoF team is now more likely to explain the hoax or illusion, a trend I hope continues in coming years -- though I'd rather never see another ghost hunt on this show again.

FACT OR FAKED: Graveyard Lighting: Truck Stop Terror

SyFy - Original Air Date: 6/12/12

We all know the show's format by now, so I'll try to just hit the highlights.  Dismissed out of Hand: Lafayette Poltergeist - mono-filament line, pulling a chair & fridge door. Lowell Lights - A triangle of lights in the night sky, very similar to other things they've worked on. Real?  Uncertain.  Maybe later.  Alaskan Alien Light: A rare light pillar natural phenomenon.

This Week's Cases:  
Truckstop Terror: Mist/apparition in a bathroom, and a blue apparition on video. Hair on the lens? Plausible, close match. Mist from automatic air freshener?  Great match, too. On to the blue, floating entity.  Reflected car headlight? Barely visible.  Human with flashlight?  Blue flares but no figure, and laser is too bright.  Hoax reflection on Plexiglas?  Very close.  But let's ghost hunt. Bumping noises and an EVP that they claim says "Get out of here," but I'm not convinced.  So, some mistaken identity photos and hoaxes, but maybe haunted.

Graveyard Lightning Photos of light trails, mist, and lighting in a cemetery.  Plasma/ball lighting? No EMF fields to support that theory.  Accidental flashlight exposure "light painting?"  Good match for some photos. Hoaxed with neon lights? Too defined, first seemed easier and just as good.  What's the yellow mist?  Stirred up dust invisible except in flash? Close match.  But what about the man "catching lighting" photo?  They hook up a Tesla coil, and that plus some light painting is a great match.  Hoaxed, one and all -- though some say it might be camera & operator error.

Another good show (despite the ghost hunt) in a very good season of this series.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

UFOs Best Evidence Caught on Tape 2

Biography Channel (though probably aired somewhere else originally) - Original Air Date: Unknown

The show starts with an object they admit is likely just a lighted sky sculpture (from a nearby show) and then goes downhill from there.  They have just enough "analysis" (some of it by decent sources) to make you think they've examined the rest of the "evidence" and found it credible.  They haven't.  This show and its videos are pure bullshit.  They don't even bother to point out the obvious reflections of a light on glass, calling it rather "a monster UFO near the World Trade Center," and they then wonder why no one seems to remark on it in the video.  Because it's a reflection, dipshits.  And the rest of the evidence is just as much crap.  Jonathan Frakes should be ashamed for narrating this piece of shit.  Seldom have I felt so thoroughly bamboozled by a UFO show, and there area lot of bullshit UFO shows out there.  There is nothing to learn here, nothing at all.  Don't waste your time on this.  Let my suffering be an example to you.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

FACT OR FAKED: Florida Woodland UFO; Black Forest Entity

SyFy - Orignal Air Date: 6/5/2012

After two very strong shows, the team is back, and views but does not investigate: New Year's Eve Alien, in which an "alien" face" appears in the side of a frame of a fireworks show.  The crew declares it a likely puppet hoax.  Couch Cushion Casper seems to show strange mist, couch cushions being indented by invisible legs, and objects flying off a table.  But Austin points out the rest of the cushion doesn't move, therefore, it's CGI, wires, and other hoax gimmicks.  Oahu UFO is merely reflections in a car window though which the video was shot.

Florida Woodland UFO shows 3 mysterious lights moving through the trees in a swampy area.  The team goes to the sighting area and tests ATVs (not large/close enough), flares (not close enough together; too difficult to control), and a fan-boat with lights.  The boat is a very close match, though the fan-boat made noise, and the witness claimed to have heard none.  Still, they conclude the video is most likely a boat.  Then the team sets up cameras for a night investigation in this UFO hot spot.  Devin spots some "lights" on the IR that then mysteriously vanish.  They then spot a mysterious light in the woods, and a mysterious flying light on their main full-spectrum camera.  They're not sure what either light is, but I wish they'd investigate whether a bird or bat could cause that kind of blip on the main camera.  Still, they've done a good job explaining the original video.

Black Forest Entity shows strange snaky "lights" flying through the woods near a supposedly haunted house, and then a strange glowing orb-like thing within that "bursts." The Lee family, which owns the place, is moving out, so this may be the last investigation of their house.  Though it's winter, the team sets up a simulated "firefly," which turns out to be a match for the "spirit entities" flying through the woods.  (What a shock. Another "investigator" that knows zip about the camera s/he's using.)  The second video seems most likely a hoax, so they set up a bubble-blower and fill the bubbles with dry ice mist.  (They burst the bubbles with a pellet gun.)  But their orbs are actually better looking than the original. Could it be a lens flare from a sparkler, a lighter, or something else hot?  Better, but still not quite right.  (Honestly, though, the original looks like some kind of light bulb to me, and whatever it is seems clearly hand held in its motion.)  So, they set up a ghost hunt to see if they can find a supernatural explanation.  They catch a strange flash of light in the attic and accompanying pop on the audio recorder, and Ben gets knocked to the floor by a mysterious force. They call the case "fact," and I believe they had strange things happen, but I remain unconvinced by the original videos.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

FACT OR FAKED: Glowing Gargoyle; Phantom Feline

Syfy - Original Air Date: 5/29/2012

The videos not chosen for investigation this week are: Prosperity School Apparition which shows a mysterious shadow moving across a wall at the far end of a video camera, but there's not enough evidence to warrant the team investigating at the moment.  Brazillian Bronze Spheres shows a light in the daytime sky that splits into 3 and hovers in the sky.  But Ben has spotted a CG jump cut in his own video, and throws it out.  Anti-Gravity Sphere is merely a CGI film project.

Glowing Gargoyle is a night-vision video that seems to show a gargoyle-like creature atop a children's playground castle, before the creature leaps off into the darkness.  The team even picks up Josh Gates, from Destination Truth, to go to England and investigate with them.  Could it be someone in a costume (for live-action role-playing, LARP, or other cosplay)?  Devin dresses up as a knight and jumps off the castle, but doesn't look animal-like enough.  So, they try with an actual lemur, but he looks too small, and he doesn't drop off camera fast enough.  So, they build a puppet that they can then pull up fast and then down faster, but it doesn't feel very organic.  Then they do a night investigation, but turn up neither monsters nor ghosts.  With no actual evidence of creatures, and with "supernatural" falling speed, the team concludes the monster is a CGI hoax.

Phantom Feline shows a cat-like ghostly shape streaking past a stationary video camera at a supposedly haunted location.  The team tries an actual cat under the IR camera, but he's a bit too clear and not transparent enough.  So, they try a white-painted RC Car, but it's still not transparent enough.  On to reflected car headlights, which don't trace the right path across the room. Then Bill suggests that maybe the shape is a light from the flashlights of investigating ghost hunters, and ... Bingo! It looks amazingly like the video (right down to the tail).  So, another strong 2 investigations for team Fact or Faked.  (And another item convincing me that ghost hunting teams do not control their lights or other techniques and evidence enough.)

FACT OR FAKED: Reptile Rampage; Gasoline Ghoul

SyFy - Original Air Date: 5/22/2012

Videos not investigated: Speakesy Specter in which a weird shape seems to enter a paranormal investigator's body, but it's just a foreground-background camera focus issue.  (When will ghost-hunting groups actually learn the specs of their cameras?)  Forest Fire Alien seems to show an alien reaching out from behind a tree beyond a campfire--but it's easy CGI work. NASA Triangle UFO is merely a reflection of Venus within the telescope's optics.

Reptile Rampage posits that a 7' red-eyed lizard man is attacking cars in South Carolina. Alligator bites are one possibility, but the team doesn't see upper-lower bite marks. Stray (or deliberate) bullets? The holes don't look gnawed enough, and no one heard gunfire. Vandals with power tools? Results are similar to the effects, but what about the witnesses who claim to have seen the creature? The team dresses Ben as a lizard man and posts a video online to test how people respond. The video does bring out believers, and the reactions convince the team that the whole thing is likely a hoax/prank that has since snowballed through local believers.

Gasoline Ghoul seems to show a blue "spectral" shape on a gas station surveillance camera. Plasma formation? EMF & radiation sweeps turns up nothing. Trash in the wind? Too sharp and clear in the video; the original "ghoul" is fuzzy. Laser or flashlight flare? That just wipes out the camera, but with plexiglas near the camera, it looks better--though you can see the camera's reflection. The solution?  A bug on the camera lens.  Though the bug is not blue, it reflects blue from the station's blue paint job and looks like an exact match.  Two cases up, two solved.  A great job of scientific investigation for Fact or Faked this week!