Bob, welcome and thank you for
taking the time to do an interview for Ghost Connections. You are an active
contributor to Bad Psychics and Bad Ghosts web sites. How did you become
involved in these sites and why?
No problem at all Dave, It's my pleasure.
I got involved with Badpsychics
initially as a forum member like anyone else, and my very first post was
a question to the forum. I asked, "Do you think Parapsychologists
who appear on programs like Most Haunted actually harm the field of Parapsychology"?
I thought it a fair question because the people I had seen on television
who had claimed to be Parapsychologists, seemed quite weak and ineffectual
when pressed for answers, usually by a glassy eyed, slavering host. One
of the Admin. replied to that query in what I considered to be quite a
condescending manner. To my surprise other forum members defended my question,
and that is when I released this was actually a place where a person could
debate freely. It was free from the "cult of personality" that
I see so often of Psuedosceptical forums.
After a while I was contacted by Jon Donni [Bad Psychic's host], who asked
me, "Was I perhaps a former Admin. under an assumed name"? I
assured him this was not the case, and I can only guess my questions or
answers made some sort of familiar impression, because not long after
I was asked to become an Admin. myself, much to my displeasure.
Still if I can help someone I will, if its within my power to do so.
Many of your contributions on these web sites are intelligently constructed
reviews of persons purporting to be able to contact the dead and bring
them to the living. Bad Psychics itself is a sceptical web site although
its contributors have many different views. What makes you sceptical of
the claimed abilities of mediums?
To be honest, I am sceptical of everything not just alleged Psychics
and Mediums. I think we should all be sceptical as it has enormous advantages,
especially when you consider the alternative. We are all capable of critical
thought, it just seems to me that few people actually choose to exercise
that right. This makes our job much harder especially when dealing with
believers as they are unaware of many of the logical fallacies which make
their claims sound so absurd.
Lets take mediums for example, they claim to act as a middleman between
you (the sitter) and your loved ones (the deceased). You cannot contact
them directly because you are not "special enough" to have been
born (or maybe trained) with a "gift". This "induced exclusion"
is designed to make you value the medium, and the information they provide,
and assign to it pertinent and personal meaning. One must ask though,
if the information they provide is indistinguishable from basic cold reading
(or other techniques) then how are you really sure it is a message from
Many people have claimed that the medium they spoke to "knew things
they could not possibly know", but they only remember what they consider
to be the "hits" and they discount or forget the "misses".
This is a logical fallacy called confirmation bias, yet if this is explained
to them, they usually refuse to accept they could
have been fooled so easily. It is a subtle process though, so it is understandable
how easy it is to be deceived and nobody is immune from this, especially
if you are grieving or suffering a separation issue.
In 160 years of very careful research, there has never been one single
Psychic or Medium that has shown to have any supernatural ability, when
tested with the chances or opportunity of cheating removed. They always
fail, and they always make excuses like sceptics exude "negative
energy" with negates their gift, or their spirit guides lied to them
(yes they can apparently do that you know, it makes you more humble).
Usually the excuses are more ridiculous then the initial claims. Not all
Psychics and Mediums are fraudulent though, some are merely delusional.
Following on from the above question. Do you believe that
any theory of an afterlife is seriously flawed or is it the manner in
which it is 'marketed' that you take issue with?
I would love for there to be an afterlife, I mean who wouldn't? If you
have the two classical choices of cessation or continuation, why would
you choose cessation? As far as I know there are no theories on an afterlife,
just conjecture,imagination, opinion, ideas, and religious marketing.
A real theory is a testable model and its interactivity with natural phenomena.
A theory is capable of predicting repeatable events or repeatable observations
of the same type. A theory is capable of being tested through experimentation
or verified through observation. How would you even apply this to an afterlife?
I mean there is nobody who has died and come back from the dead and revealed
what awaits us (we cannot include anecdotal tales or religious scripture
here). I am not referring to clinical death where blood flow and respiration
ceases, I am referring to legal death or "information theoretic death".
It does not bother me that some people choose to believe in an afterlife,
it is after all a personal choice. For some the idea of complete cessation
of being is too terrible to contemplate, and so they adhere to any hope
of resurrection to make life seem more bearable. It can force a change
in personality and behaviour, or even give a person purpose. Who am I
to take exception to whatever gets you through the day, as long as it
harms nobody in the process?
Bad Psychics has become a leader in the field of exposing fraudulent
mediums. Bearing in mind that recent legislation could cater for these
types of person do you feel that Bad Psychics role in this will diminish
or become more active in collaborating with relevant authorities?
I think Badpsychics involvement with the new consumer protection act was
a decent start. The old Fraudulent Mediums Act was effectively useless,
and the charlatans knew that, and acted accordingly. Badpsychics has always
served as an information resource for warning consumers when approaching
Psychics and Mediums. We want people to fully understand the dangers in
relying on information from people who are fraudulent or delusional, and
using that information to affect a potentially life changing decision
making process. The choice is still ultimately yours to make, but forewarned
is forearmed. I think as long as people willingly and unquestioningly
accept the notion of Psychics and Mediums, that there will still be a
need for places like Badpsychics. I must admit however that I wish there
was not such a need in the first place, as that would allow us to concentrate
on more pressing matters.
Bad Psychics has evolved to include reviews of paranormal groups. Is there
such a thing as a 'good'
investigation group and how would you distinguish between one that is
worth reading about and one that isn't worth a light?
There are both good and bad Paranormal Investigation groups, in fact if
you Google "Paranormal Investigation Group" you will get 288,000
hits. How can you tell which are good and which are bad? It really is
a monumental task. For any group to be considered a "good" Investigation
Group, certain important criteria must be met. The most important criteria
however is the ability to actually investigate, and not "Investimagate".
Other criteria include not using Psychics or Mediums as that is pure Ignotum
per Ignotius (a thing not understood by one still less understood). Some
use Dowsing rods, crystals, bizarre machinery, religious ceremony, and
new age quackery in an attempt to glean clues to the nature of the paranormal.
These have consistently failed to produce real evidence, and rely on a
whole host of fallacious automotive, and suggestibility to produce "evidence".
Misrepresentation is also rife, but my real concern is the manipulation
of a credulous press and public, in a disingenuous attempt for fame or
notoriety. The "Mystery
Machine" is jam packed and everyone wants to be Fred, nobody wants
to be Velma. To be honest though, we need more Velma's.
When you, or one of the team, considers the merits of a group what factors
jump out at you straight away?
The ability to report clearly, and show that a real investigative attempt
has been made. The publishing of reports with all data accumulated, and
a logical and concise conclusion based solely on the evidence collected.
The groups that use the scientific method to collect and examine data,
always have the advantage over the less reputable ones. So observation,
hypothesis, data gathering / testing, conclusions / theories, rinse and
repeat. The group should also be open to peer review, and amend any mistakes
revealed in their reports. This makes their final report as accurate as
it could possibly be, and present the best possible evidence to date.
Many groups boast a list of equipment as long as your arm that they use
to substantiate a belief in 'spirit' being present on an investigation.
Is there one piece of equipment that you consider may be more likely to
show reputable results and what would that be and why?
There is not one single piece of equipment available today, that is specifically
designed to detect, reveal or communicate with "spirit". Those
that tell you that EMF meters reveal spirit, are simply ignorant of the
science behind the tool, television presenters, or liars. The same can
be said about thermometers, Geiger counters,
digital light meters, airflow or humidity meters, night vision equipment,
digital cameras, digital recording equipment, motion detectors etc. All
of these devices are usually excellent at performing the tasks they were
originally designed to do, but when used in a task beyond their capability,
how is the data they provide to be used as evidence of the paranormal?
You would not use an infra red remote control to detect or treat a tumour.
The idea that a hand held devices, or banks of equipment can be used to
detect the paranormal seems firmly rooted in movies and television. Especially
in movies like Ghostbusters, Poltergeist, White Noise etc. It makes the
task "user friendly". Unfortunately the end user usually has
little to no scientific training, and their results are prone to error
and operator bias. Now I would suggest that the more responsible groups
would use what equipment they have, to "exclude natural phenomena"
from their investigation process. What remains after exclusion "may
be" paranormal in nature. If your report is free from fallacy or
error, and it withstands peer review then congratulations, you will have
found the worlds first evidence of the paranormal.
(Which will then be classed as "Perinormal", and we will all
be out of a job)
It appears that the number of paranormal groups has substantially
increased since Most Haunted has been aired. In what way is this a good
or bad thing?
Well I think the answer is both good and bad. If more people are interested
in paranormal phenomena, that means we get more people thinking about
the problems we face. Odds are then increased that someone somewhere will
have a brilliant theory and be able to test that. The downside is that
there will be far more people providing incorrect information which can
mislead us and ultimately waste our time. However the market has reached
saturation point now, and you will often find groups whose intent is simply
to discredit a rival group so they can investigate "on their patch".
The paranormal sector tends to be a bit "cut throat", when it
comes to venue acquisition.
The involvement of Bad Psychics in the review of the paranormal
has ultimately led to the linked site Bad Ghosts. Can you explain how
this came about as a separate entity?
Ah, my baby. Yes I was looking for a suitable domain name for a new website
idea I had. I knew about the Badpsychics website, and Ben Goldacres fantastic
Badscience. I thought there may be a place for a similar sceptical website
about the paranormal. I loved the whole "Bad" theme, so I 'whoised'
the address and quite
coincidentally it turned out Jon Donni was the owner. I badgered Jon to
make a template for this new venture, and eventually he relented. We do
not get many articles submitted though from the general public, so I have
my work cut out for me in that respect. I wish more people would submit
an article providing some critique of any aspect of the paranormal. Their
knowledge could serve a lot of people very well, and add to this invaluable
Badghosts is unique as a ghost related website, in the respect that we
do not promote the paranormal or indeed any paranormal group. Instead
we provide a critical look at certain aspects of the paranormal like the
way the press report on such stories, and reveal how much they attempt
to purposely mislead the reader to
illogical conclusion to improve sales. How television programs relating
to paranormal phenomena are also deceptive for the same reasons. How paranormal
groups provide and release fraudulent "evidence" to promote
themselves in the media. We also provide information for the groups that
consider themselves "professionals" should they so choose to
learn something new, as well as the casually interested readers.
Badghosts exists right now in a purely in an observational and useful
critique role, we aim to be the "watchdogs of the paranormal".
Those readers that agree with us will be well informed, those that disagree
will be forced to provide better evidences, and less outlandish claims
. Its a win win situation for the consumer, and we would like the public
to assist if they can, this is after all for all of us.
Another area reviewed on Bad Ghosts are alleged paranormal
photographs. Many of these are deeply de-constructed. What methods do
you use to analyse these in such depth?
That would totally depend on what was submitted to us. Sometimes we get
something so badly faked, we just discard it after the initial testing
procedure. Those images that are interesting or unique or even subtly
clever usually make it to the front page. There are many different methods
for examining if an image is authentic or not, and that applies to digital
or film images. We can examine the known file size, or the pixillation.
There is exif data embedded in each image taken (digitally) which contains
useful information like the make of camera, if a flash was used and what
focal range the lens has etc. All these methods and more, contain very
useful information which helps us determine if the image has been tampered
with or not.
Not only do we know the methods of detection, but also the methods of
Many old photographs exist that purport to show ghosts. Is
there a particular one that is a favourite of yours for any good or bad
reason and can you tell us about why this is?
I was raised on fortean phenomena, and I read thousands of paranormal
related books as a child, and some of them even contained the "very
famous" images like the Reverend K.F.Lord's image taken at Newby
Church of the hooded monk figure, and The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall.
Unfortunately those are usually faked or misrepresented, but my absolute
favourite ghostly type image is the apparition at Wem Town Hall. Is it
real? No, but its still great because it makes you wonder. I suppose that
is the whole point isn't it? I think I am going to have to write an article
now explaining why those images are fake. Unfortunately that's going to
a lot of peoples fun isn't it ?
Still, once we exclude what isn't real, it will leave us more time to
concentrate on what might actually be paranormal in nature. I believe
this is a good thing, as We need to remain focused on this issue.
When such photographs are dissected they are described broadly
as fakes. Do you feel these are deliberate fakes or merely caused by operator/camera
It depends on the image itself. Each has its own process and we cannot
broadly state "all" are fakes without adequate examination procedures.
There are six logical outcomes when it comes to examining an image's veracity.
1: You have outright fraudulent images (made for fun, profit, or artistic
2: You have unusual images (that are purposely misrepresented as paranormal
via fabricated back story).
3: You have genuine camera errors.
4: You have genuine user/operator errors.
5: you have an image of a known natural phenomena, (which is unknown to
6: You have a "potentially" real paranormal phenomena.
Ghost Connections have experimented with simple image capturing
without manipulation of the image by purely extending the exposure time
sufficient for the person to appear translucent using both 35mm film and
digital media. Do you think the use of excessive exposures explains old
or new 'ghost' photographs?
Yes I do, it is as relevant today as it was at the advent of cameras.
If people view a partially transparent image, their minds try to determine
what it could be. The weigh this against their personal experiences, and
those experiences tell them this looks like a ghost they once saw in a
movie etc. They then reach the
conclusion it is a "ghostly image". This process is logical
and we all do it, however it does lead to fallacious thinking if left
unexamined and un-critiqued. Even at the turn of the century people were
still amazed at long exposure images reported to be ghosts. If you have
ever seen Sybil Corbet's image of Lord Combermere taken in 1891, you will
understand why your average person (especially given the time period)
would readily accept this was indeed a ghost. They would not usually be
camera experts, and can only gauge within the scope of their own experiences.
Bad Ghosts has developed into something of an authority on
alleged paranormal video footage and still photographs. As one of the
leading contributors on this subject, is there a set series of techniques
you follow in your examinations of this alleged evidence?
Not really, and again this would totally depend on what type of "evidence"
was submitted to us. We just examine it critically, and with as many different
options for examination as are available to us at the time. This provides
a well rounded breakdown of the evidence, and virtually eliminates errors.
I do hope the readers are also examining these images for themselves,
they are after all our peer review system. I think that is usually enough
to satisfy most people's curiosity as to the truth of these evidences.
I have never considered us as an authority on these matters, I've always
seen our role as a "stopgap" measure until someone better and
funded well comes along to do this job properly.
One of your most recent examinations of photographs was submitted
by Ghost Connections for your consideration after it was sent in to us.
This is the Camden
Court Hotel Ghost In this case your first examination was of the Exif
data of the photograph. Can you explain what this is and how an examination
of this data can reveal what you are looking for?
Exif data, or Exchangeable Image File format, is a specification for the
image file format as used by digital cameras. It is basically a "Metadata"
tag which contains all kinds of useful information about the image taken
on a particular camera. Important details like the manufacturer of the
camera,the model, the software used to process the image, exposure timings,
FNumbers, ISO speeds, date and time taken and processed, shutter speeds,
aperture values, metering modes, light sources, flash triggers, focal
length, exposure modes etc. All this information can be used to determine
if the image was manipulated, but unfortunately not always so. Sometimes,
as in the Camden Hotel Ghost article, the person who took the image grafted
Exif data on top of the original image to mask his deception. Fortunately
we know about that obvious trick, and now thanks to the article, so do
If you have an image taken of something that is allegedly paranormal,
and you notice the scene is well lit,
but there is no mention of a flash firing in the Exif data. That is an
important clue, and there are three possible reasons for this discrepancy.
1: The image is fraudulent.
2: There is a problem with the camera.
3: The Exif reader you are using is unreliable.
In the Camden Court Hotel case you then examine the photograph
itself using available software. It revealed flattened layers within the
photograph. Can you explain how these flattened layers assisted your examination?
Flattened layers are a sure sign of manipulation. You see when using an
application like photoshop, the image you are using is considered to be
a layer (background as the case may be) You may have a scene of an old
spooky looking house as your first layer. If you wanted to add a ghostly
figure, you could open a new image of a random person, copy that image
and paste it on top of your first layer, then lower the opacity of the
image to make it look more ghostlike. However when it comes to saving
the manipulated image, the layers must be "flattened". Photoshop
will compress all layers onto a single plane for export, otherwise it
can only save as a .PSD (proprietary multiple layer photoshop format).
When you take a normal picture, there is a "noise" to the image,
think of it like peaks and troughs or maybe spikiness. Each of the 255
sensors on a CCD chip monitors how much light information falls across
them, in lower light or darker areas there is a trough, and in brightly
lit or lighter coloured areas there is a peak. When an area of an image
has been flattened, it is evidence of a pasted layer, which indicates
fraud. Such images can be discounted as wasted time and effort.
Bad Ghosts highlights both video and still photography as
being open to manipulation or blatant fakery. Paranormal Groups also record
their investigations in an audio format. In some research circles voices
present on such recordings are promoted as Electronic Voice Phenomena
(EVP). Whilst this, also, is open to abuse as presented evidence how do
you view these claims?
Any media can be manipulated, and I am not just referring to tabloids.
The very nature of media means it must be manipulatable for editing. Film,
images and audio can be manipulated to suit any purpose deemed fit by
the editors. EVP exists though, and has four possible causes.
1: It is communication with an unseen entity purported to be paranormal
(not evidenced by science)
2: It is external / internal noise pollution (mechanism / analogue, signal
reception, R.F. bleed etc.)
3: Purposeful manipulation of the audio.
4: Auditory Pareidolia (You try to make sense of the noise and interpret
that as words)
EVP is basically the aural equivalent of a Rorschach test. You assign
meaning, you interpret the message, you hear what you think is likely,
not what is actually recorded. This can be evidenced by getting a group
people and asking them to listen to your audio and write down what they
hear, it will not be universally clear. In programs like Ghosthunters
they usually tell the client what "they" think they hear. The
client sometimes hears something completely different altogether. They
then reach a consensus on what they heard using a combination of the two
interpretations. I find this quite silly to be honest, data should be
clear to all, not arranged conditionally and universally accepted upon
Remaining with EVP – Have you examined anything promoted as EVP
and debunked it? If so how did you come to your conclusion?
I have examined many EVP samples provided by various paranormal groups.
Most of the work we do at BadGhosts is private. Only those very interesting
articles make the front page, or those we have been given permission to
publish (when not a critique of course). Sometimes you get the obvious
fakes, they usually have badly dubbed movie howls, or the obligatory "get
out" or "help me" etc etc.
I do remember quite a famous one though that we were asked to examine,
however I wont reveal the groups name as it was a confidential report.
At BadGhosts we take non-disclosure and confidentiality very, very, seriously.
They had conducted an investigation at an Abbey, and were perplexed by
a name given during the course of an EVP session. I listened to roughly
30 minutes of audio taken on that night, I noted all unusual noises and
wrote a report for them. However nowhere on the recording did I hear the
name they alleged was spoken. I contacted the team member that presented
this evidence to us, and asked where this voice was on the recording as
I could not hear it. After receiving the time stamp information, I re-listened
and I did finally hear a noise, however it was still not a name.
Upon further questioning, I was told to hear the name you had to reverse
that particular section of recording to hear it. Now if that is not forcing
a square peg into a round hole, I don't know what is, we call that retrofitting.
Apparently a ghost can converse forwards of backwards depending on its
mood. I was quite surprised it also never announced the death of Paul
In the same vein, are there any audio recordings that you
have subjected to analysis that you consider to be of genuine interest
They are all interesting, as you get to hear sounds and noises from all
over the world, I believe there are
also websites which use "Geotagged" sounds that you can download.
I see no reason why they are paranormal though, in fact most seem quite
mundane. EVP is very popular though, because it allows anyone to grab
recording equipment and go ghost hunting. The random noises they collect
serve as good personally convincing evidence. However personally convincing
evidence should never be mistaken or confused for real evidence. I have
not heard one single EVP that I considered to be genuinely paranormal,
and I have heard thousands.
Whilst it is clear that firm evidence of the presence of ghosts
is lacking, do you have a view that anything produced could ever actually
show something which defies explanation and if so what would that be?
I think if we spend a couple of decades looking at the paranormal in a
serious and scientific fashion, we could establish once and for all if
it existed, or was just an extension of our storytelling past. The tales
themselves are fantastic, and if they do exist (sic ghosts) It could possibly
be a clue as to the nature of an afterlife (if one exists). I have no
idea of the method that would reveal the existence of ghosts, and I am
not alone in that respect. There are many who claim to know, but anecdotes
do not make for good evidence. There are plenty of things which defy explanation
right now, like motor neurone disease, creationism and big brother actually
being shown on television in a country where the television crew are not
being held at gunpoint. That is not to say one day we will not have the
answers to these questions, its just right now we do not. Such is the
nature of science, we work with what we have until something better comes
along, and then we adapt our theory.
From all of your findings are there any lessons to be learnt
by paranormal groups in the presentation of their findings to gain any
respect from sites like Bad Psychics and Bad Ghosts?
If you produce good solid work, if it is peer reviewed, if you are open
to critique, if you are willing to debate your findings, if you do not
make unsubstantiated claims, if you discount useless current theory, if
you investigate without the use of psychics and mediums, if you use the
scientific method then you should have all the respect you need from your
fellow serious paranormal enthusiasts. One thing you do not want though
is to appear on the BadGhosts radar, that might sting a bit. BadGhosts
will not bestow upon you respect, although you may get a "nod and
a wink" from time to time for doing the right thing. We consider
ourselves to be true enthusiasts, who will settle for nothing less than
the best evidence. We hope others share our vision, and we can move forward
and create a better investigative process.
As highlighted at the beginning of this interview the phenomena of paranormal
investigations seems to have really taken off in the last 10 or so years
since the subject became mainstream on the television. Where do you see
such investigation groups, and indeed Bad Ghosts in a further 10 years?
Television Investigation groups are not real. They are manufactured for
profits and ratings. They are a marketable commodity which increases stock
values for their parent companies. They are for entertainment purposes
only. I love almost all the paranormal related television shows, they
are very entertaining. One thing I do not subscribe to however is a cult
of personality. If the person on TV is wrong, then it matters not to me
if they are famous, Wrong is wrong and that's it. There can be, and should
not be concessions simply because they are famous. Judge the person by
their actions, not their words alone, and certainly not their public relations.
It sickens me to see hordes of sycophantic fans defend the mistakes their
idols make. They are unquestioning docile sheep and there is simply no
excuse for it. The people you defend will not love you, or even acknowledge
your presence in return. If you believe your idol is correct, explain
why this is so, debate it rationally because Ad Hominem will only make
you appear weaker. If you have no rational excuse for defense, then perhaps
you should re-examine why you still believe them. One day the paranormal
bubble (no not an orb) will pop, and you will dispose of these idols like
every other disposable consumer product you have ever owned.
As for BadGhosts, I hope sometime between now and ten years into the future,
that some bright spark will have proven the existence of the paranormal
beyond a shadow of a doubt. My job will finally be finished, and Jon Donni
will finally unchain me from his cellar floor, and finally pay me some
quids. I believe after all the
hard work I do, I am owed many, many, pints. I was hoping for a good bottle
of twenty one year old single malt scotch, however spirits seem to be
in very short supply.
Ghost Connections would like to thank
Bob for his time and thoughts on all matters paranormal. We are sure that
his answers will provide food for thought.