The Hoaxing of Poasttown

If ghost hunters believe they captured evidence of the paranormal at a location they now admit was not haunted, what does that say about the evidence they captured at any other location?  That’s a question myself and a lot of skeptics are asking now that Poasttown Elementary has been exposed as perpetrating a hoax on the ghost hunting public.

Darrell Whisman

This past Saturday, Aron Houdini released evidence he had of Darrell Whisman, the caretaker of Poasttown Elementary, and Jay Lynch of Hindsight Paranormal, tricking paranormal investigators.  He claims to have personally seen Mr. Whisman “purposely set a door so that it would slam shut,” both Whisman and Lynch, “create shadow figures with flashlights” and “use their cell phones to create noises” that investigators would mistake for EVPs.  He also claims to have witnessed each of them stand in rooms “using open air vents to send noises to other rooms,” flip light switches and breakers on and off, and use night vision cameras to watch people in the dark so they can avoid being caught.  And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  Several other people who have witnessed similar things have also released statements.

But perhaps the most stunning allegation to many ghost hunters was the information that no adult or child has ever died on the property.  This must come as a shock to the many who have seen documentaries from a pair of twins who have helped perpetuate this apparent myth.

Ghost hunters who have visited Poasttown have reacted in a variety of ways.  I have spoken to some who are acknowledging the fact that they were fooled and have vowed to cancel plans for upcoming investigations there.  Another team I know of had planned to stage an event there in the spring of 2013.  They have since decided to change venues.  Others are simply furious that a location they supported for years has turned out to not only not be haunted, but to have flat out taken their money and then lied to their faces.

But not all the paranormal investigators are withdrawing their support.  On the Poasttown Elementary Facebook group, I saw some who say they are confident in the evidence they found at the location, despite the recent allegations of fraud and trickery, and plan to continue investigating there.  Another stated that they will not allow one man (Aron Houdini, presumably) to act as judge and jury.

In a recent article I posted before Poasttown was exposed, I stated that the ghost hunters who have helped build the reputation of this location, largely through misguided, unscientific methods and a lack of skepticism, were just as much responsible for the hoax as were the caretakers.  If not for their lack of skepticism, this fraud would have been sniffed out long ago, and the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have paid to investigate there could have saved their money.

But I now go back to the question I asked to open this article.  If the ghost hunters who captured evidence or had paranormal experiences there (EVPs, EMF hits, creepy feelings, etc) are now admitting the location is a fraud and not haunted, what does that say about all the EVPs, EMF hits and creepy feelings they’ve gotten at any other location they’ve visited?  It’s a question they have to ask themselves, but I fear many will not.

The fact is that amateur ghost hunting teams copy their methods from television and have fooled themselves into believing they are acting scientifically.  They clearly do not know how to use their equipment, and seem to have very little idea about the natural means that explain EMF spikes and EVPs and, yes, even the creepy feelings.  Ghost hunters work backwards from a conclusion, going in believing there are ghosts present, then go about labeling any natural phenomena they can’t explain as proof of ghosts.  It is not scientific, it is not logical, and it is unfortunately all too common.

Aron Houdini

So what will become of Poasttown?  My guess is they will experience a fair amount of backlash for a short period, then things will pretty much go back to normal.  Many teams that have been there before will return, believing their old evidence to be legit.  And new groups will file in and out, finding what they wrongly believe to be evidence of ghosts as well.  The cycle will continue, if not at Poasttown, then at another location up the road.

Besides, does the fact that the people they trusted were fooling them all along really bother amateur paranormal investigators all that much?  The anger doesn’t seem to last long.  After all, TAPS was caught faking evidence on live television, and their ratings are as high as ever.

Thanks for reading.

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The Cost of Not Being Skeptical: A Look at Haunts, Hoaxes and the Unscientific Ghost Hunters Who Help Create Them

Amateur paranormal investigators love to find what they consider to be evidence of ghosts at private residences and businesses all across the country.  EMF spikes, EVP, and a variety of creepy feelings and photographic anomalies all pass as proof positive of a haunting in their minds.  But what happens when they find out the location they deemed haunted had been pulling the wool over their eyes?  What do they do when they find out their haunt was hoaxed?

That’s a question some of these folks may have to start asking themselves if Aron Houdini has his way.  Houdini, a distant relative by marriage of the legendary magician; and a conjurer and escape artist in his own right, recently took to his Facebook page to announce that he had proof positive of a so-called haunted location faking paranormal phenomena.

Confessing that he had “seen it with (his) own eyes,” he accuses this as of yet unnamed location of “making things move,” and creating “noises, shadows, apparitions.”  Many of his friends and fans, ghost hunters themselves, offered their support and asked him to expose the location and its owners for their duplicitous ways.

Despite their alarmingly unscientific methods, many ghost hunters pride themselves in their pursuit of the truth, and in helping people understand the nature of the spirit world.  Though skeptics have long realized that the claimed “proof” of ghosts is really no more than proof they don’t know what they are doing, I think it’s fair to say that many ghost hunters have their hearts in the right place.  I also think it’s fair to say they have their heads up their rears, especially when it comes to situations like Aron Houdini is referring to.  The ghost hunters, it seems, consider themselves to be the victims in this ordeal.

Commenting on Aron’s Facebook page, Allen Dunski, lead investigator and tech manager for Wisconsin Paranormal Investigators said, “People pay good (money) to go to events and haunted locations to experience something, not to be made to look like a fool.”  Another ghost hunter going by the name of Blade Sighters wrote, “I would thank you for letting me know that I was fooled.  And as for the people that fooled me, well, we will leave it at that.”  Their comments were typical, though some were much more harsh.  What very few of them seemed to understand or want to admit, however, was that it was ghost hunters just like them ultimately responsible for the con continuing in the first place.

Solid scientific investigative techniques expose fraud.  Unscientific nonsensical methods people copy from television shows help perpetuate the fraud.  The fact is, these teams go into locations looking to find ghosts and anything they can’t immediately explain away becomes, in their mind, evidence of ghosts.  They go through the motions of what they consider to be an investigation, call the location haunted, and share their “evidence” with other people and teams in the paranormal community.  Those folks then check the location out for themselves, making the same mistakes the last group did.  More “proof” of ghosts is found and the legend grows.  Soon, the location is charging obscene amounts of money for ghost tours and renting the place out to would-be investigators.  It’s an ongoing cycle.  The hoaxers don’t even have to bother recreating the effects any longer.  The eager investigators are more than happy to find ghosts in blurry photographs, hear them in the white noise from their recordings, and feel them in the tingle up their spine.  All they need is a story to start them off and their lack of critical thinking will do the rest.

In my opinion, the ghost hunting groups who validate the hauntings are just as responsible, if not more so, than the locations engaging in fakery in the first place.  Their unscientific methodology and disregard for skepticism and critical thinking has helped propagate an innumerable amount of false hauntings across the country and around the world.  Who can say how many dollars hoaxed haunts have brought in with the help of testimonials from ignorant ghost hunters?  And how many clients have these same teams unwittingly misled into believing their homes were haunted by using the same techniques?  That’s the kind of stuff that keeps skeptics up at night.

So when Aron Houdini eventually announces the name of the location he caught faking paranormal phenomenon, how many of the ghost hunters who validated that haunting over the years will apologize?  How many will vow to stop investigating until they learn what they’re doing?  My guess:  few, if any.  And why?  Because they’re too busy playing victim to their own ignorance.

Thanks for reading.