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Bob Dezon of Bad Ghosts talks to Ghost Connections

 

Both websites – Bad Psychics and Bad Ghosts have become synominous for their investigative critique of all things mystical, psychic, spiritual and paranormal. Bad Ghosts specialises in the investigation of alleged paranormal evidence and spiritual claims. Here Ghost Connections asks questions of one of Bad Psychic's lead Administrators and Bad Ghosts host Bob Dezon.

Bob
 
   
 

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 the dead?
 
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 resource.

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 circumvention.
 
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 ruin
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 error?
 
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 reconstruction).
 
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 the photographer/observer).
 
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 others.
 
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 of
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 agreement.
 
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 McCartney.
 
In the same vein, are there any audio recordings that you have subjected to analysis that you consider to be of genuine interest and why?
  
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.


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