A Picture of Paranormal Fraud

There is a paranormal group that goes by the name of Ghosts of New England Research Society.  G.O.N.E.R.S, for short.  Recently, they began publicizing a hoaxed ghost photo as authentic.  They have also been using the hoax, in part, to promote an episode of the Discovery Channel series “American Haunting” that they’ll be featured on this fall.

Understandably, this has gotten a number of people in the paranormal community up in arms.  Fraudulent ghost photos are something most investigators decry and, indeed, it was skeptical paranormal investigators themselves who spotted the fraud in the first place.


The photo, taken at Ryder’s on Main, a bar and restaurant in Meridan, CT shows the hazy silhouette of what G.O.N.E.R.S calls “The Holy Grail of Paranormal Research:  A Full Body apparition of what appears to be a women in 1920s-30s period attire…”  Of course, anyone familiar with famous ghost photos recognized this image as the well-documented “Madonna of Bachelor’s Grove” taken at the Chicago cemetery by members of the Ghost Research Society in the summer of 1991.  It had simply been superimposed on a photo taken inside Ryder’s on Main by way of photoshop or perhaps even a smartphone app.

Skeptical paranormal investigator Kenny Biddle who, in full disclosure, must also be noted as a contributor to The Bent Spoon, first spotted the forgery on Facebook, drawing attention to the striking similarities between the images and quickly swayed opinion.  While many on the thread were originally hyping it up as a great piece of evidence, they soon turned to castigating the paranormal team in question for using it to market themselves.


credit: Dale Kaczmarek

The story soon went viral and Ghosts of New England Research Society took the image down, apparently not commenting publicly on the matter.  Many in the paranormal community have taken this incident to be the prime example why paranormal investigation is not accepted by the scientific mainstream.  Even Brian Harnois, former cast member of the longest running fraudulent paranormal reality series on television, Ghost Hunters, said it is incidents like this that caused him to retire from the field.

In defense of G.O.N.E.R.S, it is unclear whether they hoaxed the photo themselves, or were duped by the bar/restaurant.  Either way, however, the paranormal team is culpable.  They should have known how famous the Bachelor’s Grove image is, for one.  Secondly, they should not have publicized and promoted the photo from Ryder’s on Main to get attention for their upcoming television exposure.  They fell into a trap they set themselves with their own ignorance.

But is this really the cause of paranormal investigation not being taken seriously by science?  Is fraud really the reason ghost hunters don’t get more credit from the scientific establishment?  I think not.  Fraud happens in science as well.  Things like peer review help eliminate it, something most paranormal enthusiasts don’t seem to use.  But even having examples of fraud throughout the history of science gives no one logical license to distrust the scientific process.  It has worked for hundreds of years.

No, the reason ghost hunters are not taken seriously by science is because they do not respect science.  Ghost hunters, by and large, have a fundamental misunderstanding of how to operate under proper scientific methodologies or even to control their experiments.  The evidence they put forth is not given credibility because it isn’t evidence.  At best, it is often just anomalies they found on their digital voice recorders or readings they took on their EMF meters.  Anomalies which, by the way, have been explained countless times by science-based investigators.

If there’s a lesson that can be learned from Ghosts of New England Research Society, it is this:  your photographs are not proof of ghosts.  But it can be proof that you don’t seem to know what you are doing.  So, if you want to be taken seriously by science, start taking science seriously and educate yourselves.



12 thoughts on “A Picture of Paranormal Fraud

  1. Thank you for pointing out that, Yes Fraud does happen even in the so called “scientific” community, but anything slandering the television show known as “Ghost Hunters” More correctly known as T.A.P.S.(The Atlantic Paranormal Society) is biased, untrue, and you owe them an apology, Especially because T.A.P.S. Aka “Ghost hunters” as apposed to Travel channel’s “Ghost Adventures” goes into any situation from a scientific SKEPTICAL perspective instead of automatically assuming that every drop of water is an apparition. Ghost Hunters, and now Ghost Adventures is doing a better job at debunking as well, but GH, does this onsite WHILE investigating. much more professional and deserves a public apology for being attacked like this. Not all rogue or amatuer paranormal groups act, think, or even debunk the same way but they also should not be punished the same for what the other does. Think carefully before you attack openly. Thank you

    • Ridiculous. Ghost Hunters ARE biased toward paranormal explanations and have NO CLUE what scientific skepticism is. Sure, they occasionally explain something simple. Good for them. But far too often they call something haunted simply because they could not explain the phenomenon. I actually used to be a ghost hunter and thought I was being skeptical or scientific, too. Totally believed in TAPS. Now I understand why I was so very wrong. For further reading: Ben Radford’s “Scientific Paranormal Investigation,” Sharon Hill’s Doubtful blog, or keep looking through Fortean Squirrel for more on this topic.

  2. Just one last thought for the evening, what makes you put so much faith in science for something that requires a “spiritual” answer or calling or even acknowledgements, does science explain why you make bad choices in life and yet you can’t find happiness? Does science explain death or birth or why they are cycles of life? Does science explain your boyfriend/girlfriend leaving you/proposing??? No, science is a form of trying to tear apart things at molecular levels to understand what is unseen, science cannot see faith. Nor can science see God but science fills a void temporarily that is a vacuum of the human soul that, Without God, Man CANNOT fill. Thus you are left to your own vices, or De-vices. I’d say good luck searching, but I don’t believe in “luck”.

    • I don’t have “faith” in science. Faith is a ridiculous notion that is intellectually bankrupt. “Pretending you know what you don’t” as the philosopher Peter Boghossian has said. But I do trust the scientific process because it actually explains the natural world and has a long track record of making our lives better. And it’s based on empirical evidence that can be proven to exist. I also don’t believe that science can explain everything. If you have specific questions about my opinions, feel free to ask. But don’t make blanket assumptions.

      As far as the science/religion divide goes, I think the physicist Vic Stenger put it best. ““Science flies you to the moon. Religion flies you into buildings.”

      • My friend, i’ll wager you wouldn’t exist if someone before you didn’t have the simple “faith” you ridicule in such a caviler manner. I suggest you keep an open mind and stay humble in regard to others ideas on “faith.” You may need it later on. Then again you may be too intelligent to deal with such “nonsense.” Don’t take it so hard when someone offers an opinion. Have Fun ! : )

      • I’m very open minded, so please feel free to try to change my mind that faith is basically belief in the absence of evidence.

        I never take it hard when someone has an opinion, but I do try to correct the record when people make wrong assumptions.

        So long! I’m going back to having fun now!

  3. sorry i sounded rough on you. I don’t mean to sound didatic. i can’t change your mind. changing a mind set is an internal process. but i can suggest to you the concept of faith is not just a definition to hold up for personal sovereignty.. The term is not just theological. If you believe in any concept larger than yourself, you hold a tedium of faith. Its part of human nature. to deny may be denying your “self”. I do believe you have an open mind. Im just suggesting that we do don’t know how our needs will change (so stay humble and keep learning) : ) glad you have fun! be well

  4. I am sitting at a bar, having a beer and have figured out that I have no idea what the argument above is really about, religion vs science I think. Anyways, just wanted to let you know your article sounds somewhat similar to another one I found at this website: http://pjwellingtonwtph.blogspot.com/2013/08/fraud-and-paranormal-investigator.html?m=1
    At the very least, the G.O.N.E.R.S. part sounds similar. Don’t know who used it first, but one website probably owes the other one credit for the use of intellectual property.

    • Thanks for bringing that to my attention. My article was written a full year before the one you linked to here, and portions were clearly plagiarized from me.

  5. Pingback: I’ve Just Been Plagiarized – But It Turned Out Okay | Jason Korbus

  6. The one incriminating thing for all these photos – do clothes have an afterlife too? Will i be wearing my jeans when I’m haunting a cemetery? Also, why would i take a picture of an empty staircase or empty chair? Finally, the famous ghost descending the stairs has been proven to be superimposition of a common Madonna figure that stands on a globe. So all these pics are fakes, unless the afterlife comes with a wardrobe.

    • Fair points. I certainly don’t believe “ghost photos” show actual paranormal events, either, and I believe your skepticism is certainly warranted.

      However, just as a point of interest: Parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach has posited that that reason ghosts appear to be wearing clothes is that they, as pure consciousness, are able to use mind-to mind communication to psychically project to the witness what they are wearing. In other words, we see them as the “ghost” sees itself.

      Plenty of good reason to be skeptical of that, too! To me, it’s just using the paranormal to explain the paranormal. Very convenient, right? Anyway, just wanted to tell you the explanation I’ve heard before. Feel free to let me know what you think.

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