Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fraud or Fake

By Martha Hazzard Decker

Author’s note – this author lost her voice and was unable to speak directly to anyone this week. This piece is done from previous research and memory of conversations. Some of the opinions may be those of the author after talking to numerous people.

There has been much discussion amongst the paranormal community about fakers and fraud. Teams have been sued by other teams or team members. Then there are those teams touting the why can’t we all be friends and share with each other while lambasting other teams and individuals in the same breath. This article is not about getting along, although that might be nice. It’s about the fact that it might be a good thing to be somewhat skeptical when talking to an individual about possible activity in their home, public place or business.

Anyone interested in what the paranormal community is saying about this just has to Google paranormal frauds and they will come up with nearly 6,000,000 results in seconds. There are individuals calling themselves doctors. In many states all you have to do is use the word doctor and have others believe you are just that to commit a felony. Others may hold themselves to be inventors of equipment that can be applied to the paranormal field. That is until the true scientists and researchers within the paranormal realm begin asking too many questions. That’s when some of these individuals tend to fade away. There are a few sites to check every now and then such as SciFake to keep up with possible allegations of “things may not be as they seem.” There is an interesting article Burden of Proof that discusses where the burden lies, with the skeptic or the believers. While this may not cover fakers and fraud, it does apply to this as well. In fact, there are a lot of good article on regarding almost everything paranormal.

But then there are some even worse. They are real criminals and should be charged with a criminal offense. A recent conversation with another investigator centered on a paranormal group that was new and turned out to be not so interested in the paranormal. When they were contacted by individuals with questions or asking for help they would set up an investigation time the same as most groups. They would arrive at the home without plans to do an investigation. When they made contact with the homeowner they had the stipulation that they could not conduct an investigation with the homeowner present. Once the homeowner left, they would steal items from the home. One would think this couldn’t last too long as it would be fairly easy to track them down. That is if they use their real names and so on and if the homeowner is not too embarrassed to make a report. It’s a good idea for the individual contacting a group to be sure and take some time to do their due diligence search on the group and maybe even the founder. Most groups are legitimate and won’t be offended if the caller asks questions or even for references. After all, it is their home and they are asking strangers to come for the evening.

One woman who decided she had demons in her home set out to find the quickest way she could find to get rid of them. She contacted a group near her home and they responded quickly because she has a child in the home. When this group arrived for the interview they were told activity picked up the night she followed some instructions she received. The instructions were to use anointing oil in various places, say certain prayers, write something on a piece of paper and sleep with it under her pillow. Then the first thing she was to do the following morning was to put the paper, along with money, into an envelope so the person receiving it could pray for them and make everything go away. The group advised this was a scam and arranged to conduct an investigation several days later. Before the investigation, the woman called the group and told them she had two men come to the house, but wasn’t able to explain where she found them, and they had come to cleanse her house, telling her not to have the group come over. While the two unknown men were at the residence so was the woman’s daughter. The men started their cleansing and put oils on a variety of places within the home. Then they had the woman in her bedroom and told her to disrobe so they could “cleanse” her. They said this would have applied to her daughter if she was 12, she was 11. The scary part is what might have happened, especially if her daughter had not been present. The woman refused and then the men demanded money for their so called “free” home cleansing. She said she did not have any money and promised to send them some in a few days and they left. The group counseled her about scan artists and the dangers of allowing just anyone into her home. It was such a concern the group tried to get information from her regarding the men. They wanted to report this to police. She didn’t want to give out the information and said she was still sending them the money even though it was a cam because she had promised to do so.

It’s a shame there are individuals out there who are willing to do anything to have their 15 minutes of fame or to just have fun at another person’s expense. This can cause all kinds of problems from a real situation getting worse along with even more distrust of the paranormal community in general. While the paranormal community may not ever get rid of the fakers by working together cohesively they may make a dent and help the scientific community one day accept more of the data.

There are pages on FaceBook like Stop Paranormal Bullying and one Paranormal Fraud Awareness. Both have missions to expose fraud. You can find the same on Twitter. These can be good places to obtain current information about information you may not know regarding current scamming trends. Just like it is important to remember when watching TV paranormal shows that they are for entertainment purposes only. They are not always the best place to learn how to conduct a proper paranormal investigation just like the TV show COPS is not the place to learn how to be a good officer. Individuals who are interested in the paranormal field should try to connect with some good and experienced paranormal researchers, groups or investigators willing to take the time to mentor. By taking the time to do this the experienced will help educate and alleviate some of the misconceptions in the field.  The experienced might consider themselves the village and take it from there, which is better than creating the Paranormal Police.

There are several important things to remember when talking with or locating someone to help you with possible unexplained activity in your home:
  • There is no such thing as a guaranteed removal of activity. It’s not like buying that guaranteed used car. The science is not exact.
  • The group you call should not charge a penny to help. If they do, beware and call another group.
  • Ask how long they have been around and what kind of experience members in the group have with the paranormal. Legitimate groups won’t be offended.
  • If an individual used doctor in their name ask where they went to school.
  • If a group requires you to leave your home and you don’t want to, don’t. An honest group will probably want you nearby in case they have questions during their investigation. Be suspicious if they say they will only come if you leave.
  • Most groups will ask you to sign a release. That’s standard practice. Just remember it is your house and you do not have to have the information released to the public. Most legitimate groups give you the homeowner the choice to decide how much if anything is made public.

Dark Radio aired a show this past Thursday night and discussed Frauds, Fame and Fortune of the Paranormal. You can listen to the show through the archives. Another discussion that could cover pages here would be to discuss what makes a place really haunted when it comes to it being a public location for events. A recent conversation with an investigator was about how a location asked them to come and investigate their location. Prior to the investigation the location was researched to determine if there was any sort of a past that could cause unexplained activity and there was none. The house while brand new was made to appear to be very old. The group went in and was able to determine that they owners had set up the house so it appeared to be active when it was not. This was a good thing and investigators should be prepared to look for scams on the other end. Skeptoid has an article about Paranormal Tourism is it Fun or Fraud. There are many pages covering the same discussion. What do you think?