Shedding some light on ghost stories


It’s that creepy, crawly time of the year — when the stone cold facts of reality are often trumped by the endless limitations of Halloween imaginations run wild. Bumps in the night become restless spirits searching for living souls, and visions in photographs become visible evidence that the paranormal is alive and well — albeit unseen to the naked eye.

We are quick to fall into one of two categories when the unexplained causes us to search for, well, an explanation. We either jump to the side that explains all away as things that are beyond our realm as human beings — citing the lack of evidence to anything contrary to paranormal activity as evidence itself that the paranormal exists, or we jump to the other school of thought, that we just haven’t reached a scientific conclusion as of yet, but one certainly exists.

I guess I fall to the latter line of rationale. I like things to make sense to me. It helps me go to sleep at night. And I especially love when facts come out that debunk some myths and legends — and leave those who believed feeling a bit ridiculous.

Man, do I love seeing people feel as if they’ve been foolish. I remember one time watching my sister grab a piece of candy off the boardwalk in Bethany Beach when I was a kid ...

Wait, that has nothing at all to do with this article. I guess, well, I digress.

With the spirit of Halloween recently enveloping our nation, the ghost stories were flying around like tales of dunes during beach replenishment efforts. And, much to my sick glee, so were the debunkings.

For instance, the Associated Press recently reported on a blurry videotape outside the Santa Fe (N.M.) Courthouse that showed a “specter.” According to those who saw the video, the image was a “glowing spot drifting in front of a patrol car parked beneath some trees.”

Since Santa Fe County Deputy Alfred Arana first posted the video on YouTube on June 15, there were more than 132,000 hits to see the phantom images. Benjamin Radford, managing editor of “Skeptical Inquirer” magazine, went out to Santa Fe to check it out, and eventually paid $9 for 1,750 ladybugs, based on an informed hunch. “Sure enough, we got the ghost,” said Radford.

That’s right. The “glowing spot” was a ladybug on the lens.

Boo.

New Mexico is not the only location for visions of the unexplained. For years, rumors have circulated regarding a Civil War veteran’s ghost haunting a cemetery in Stevens Point, Wis. The alleged ghost was that of Calvin Blood, a reported deserter during the Civil War who hung himself in the cemetery.

A few problems with the story. First off, Blood was not a deserter — in fact, he had served two tours in the war with some distinction. Secondly, he died in his home of gangrene at the age of 82. Variations of the myth had Blood’s wife hanging herself in the cemetery — though documents show she died in her daughter’s home in a completely different town.

So, how does something like this begin in the first place?

Well, I’m guessing his name was a pretty good start to somebody authoring a scary story at the cemetery, and there were some complaints about loud noises and empty beer cans at his plot — remnants, it was revealed, from some teenagers partying.

As for the locals, they’re about ready to see this put to rest.

“The neighbors are being targeted by these social morons driving around there and thinking they’re going to see a ghost,” Portage County Sheriff John Charewicz told the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Nope, they’re going to see some drunk teenagers.

Boo.

Mystical orbs in photos have been passed around from person to person for years as evidence of the supernatural. I’ve had several friends show these to me over the years, and they’re always doing it with a self-satisfied expression that they’ve proven the evidence of the unexplained.

Well, consider it explained.

On the Web site, praireghosts.com, they take on the subject of orbs appearing in photographs. The first line of the second paragraph pretty much planted in my mind what was the cause:

“It should also be noted that orbs were actually quite rare (if not nonexistent) before digital cameras became common.”

The author went on to explain that some digital cameras were made with CMOS chips that created “noise” in low-light photographs — hence, the orbs. It was also explained that even with newer cameras without the CMOS chips, the orbs are simply refractions of light on the camera lens. This could come from bounce-back from the camera’s flash or a foreign particle on the lens that reacts to light from an outside source. They listed dust, moisture, pollen, insects, snow, rain, hair, ash and other items as being discovered on lenses that captured mysterious orbs.

Boo.