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.

ImageThe 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.

Image
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.

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A Picture of Paranormal Fraud

36 thoughts on “A Picture of Paranormal Fraud

  1. We were given the photo by the owner of the establishment mentioned above. At no time did we claim to capture the image ourselves, however, we made an obvious error when we failed to recognize the source of the image.
    Our intent was not to defraud, or profit by posting the photo. We do not charge a fee when performing an investigation, and our costs are supported completely by our members.

    Melanie Knapp
    G.O.N.E.R.S
    http://www.ghostsofnewengland.com

    1. Dyedye says:

      Thank you for the explanation. You should post it on Facebook. And thank you for being appropriately humble and not defensive.

  2. Melanie, thanks for writing. You’ll notice in the article I did say it was possible your team was duped by the bar/restaurant. I also say that ultimately it was the team who was responsible for posting the photo as the “Holy Grail” and using it for publicity, regardless of who hoaxed the photo. On those fundamental points, it seems we agree.

  3. A statement from Kurt Knapp of G.O.N.E.R.S about this article:

    I’d like to make a few comments about your article on G.O.N.E.R.S. I freely admit that we showed poor judgement in posting the photo that was given to us by our client. We trusted her for several reasons. The producers of American Haunting, formerly A Haunting, had already agreed to use the restaurant investigation in their series. There was no reason for her to ” frost the cake” ,the deal was already done, based on the legitimate activity we had personally recorded, There was no reason for her to attempt a hoax. I am baffled why she did this. Its been said many times, that we should have recognized the ” Famous ” picture. Well we didn’t. Maybe because the form was out of context and it had also been cropped, the details fuzzed, and put in a new background, I think via a “Ghost app” on the clients phone. I have been in the paranormal field since 1985. I don’t recall ever seeing the original picture, which for all I know, could be a fake too. I guess I just don’t sit in front of the computer for hours looking at other peoples supposed ghost pictures. I’m out there actually investigating. When we learned the original photo was copyrighted and turned into a Ghost Cam app, we immediately removed it from all media controlled by G.O.N.E.R.S. Thats all, thanks for the opportunity to point out a few things about this. I would appreciate it if you would give us an even shake by either posting this next to your article on us or at least linking it. Many thanks, Kurt Knapp Founder, G.O.N.E.R.S.

    My reply:

    Kurt, a word of advice: apologize, take responsibility for the error, promise to do better, and move on. Some might even say you should stop “investigating” until you have a better understanding of the scientific method or at least know more about the history of paranormal research. Now, will a lot of folks still be pissed at your team regardless of what you do? Yup. No doubt about it. But this statement from you, in my opinion, is a lame attempt at deflecting blame.

  4. Personally, I would talk to the producers and have them pull the episode. Everyone know the pic is a fake, no matter who is to blame. How credible will anything that is put forward be taken seriously ? Pull the episode, save what credibility you have, and a formal actual apology MIGHT help you save face.If you check our website, you will see a major lack of evidence, not because we don’t do a lot of investigations, but because we are able to disprove 99.9% of what we find. There is no glory in ghost hunting, the fame is already been taken. Do it for the core reasons, to help people in distress and for the science of it.

    1. I wonder at this point if they would have the ability to stop their episode from airing even if they wanted to.

      Investigating using a scientific approach helps solve mysteries, that’s what is cool about it. You actually figure stuff out as opposed to just blaming unexplained things on “ghosts.” I don’t think most ghost hunting groups, even when they say they are scientific, act as such. They seem to largely equate equipment with science. It’s not true.

  5. Kenneth Biddle says:

    “I guess I just don’t sit in front of the computer for hours looking at other peoples supposed ghost pictures. I’m out there actually investigating.” – Well, perhaps this entire fiasco is a grand wake up call that you SHOULD be sitting in front of a computer, looking at other people’s supposed ghost photos. Since if you had taken the time to learn about the paranormal hobby and the popular entities (excuse the pun) associated with it…you would not have been fooled so easily…in in fact you were (which I don’t agree with). And what you consider “investigating” is anything but… from watching your video on your website, you do a stake-out, not an investigation. You set up and use a bunch of a equipment and wait for something to happen – a stake-out. Investigating means collecting the claims made by the owner and systematically going through each one to find a cause. Gong over eyewitness reports, checking the scene, consulting actual experts in various fields associated with the claim (electricians, psychologists, professional photographers that you’ll actually name), going over details, forming expermentsn an attempt to replicate claimed events. I see none of this from you, Kurt.

    I agree with Jason, and others, that you continue trying to shift the blame while still promoting the TV show you’re a part of. Your entire account of events is purely anecdotal, which those of us who respect the scientfic method, undertand that anecdotes are not evidence. Mrs. Ryder stated she forwarded a many photos to you from her phone (in a post she made on Worst Paranormal). If this is true, then it should be no issue to Forward, not save and resend on it’s own, those images to someone else that confirm they came from her phone…someone independant from both parties beng blamed. Like me.

    Furthermore, you’re excuse for not recognizing the supposed “ghost” – Maybe because the form was out of context and it had also been cropped, the details fuzzed, and put in a new background – is weak at best. You have an entire team that shares an interest in the paranormal, and none recognized it. This only shows your team’s lack of interest in experience and knowledge in what you consider a “field”. Inexcuseable. Your team, and you, lack the experience, skills and knowledge required to investigate (not stake-out) claims of paranormal activity.

  6. The problem with saying groups should use the scientific method is that people who say that obviously don’t have an understanding of what the scientific method is. To prove a theory or incident by science, it must be repeatable and testable to come out with the same result after a series of identical experiments and identical outcomes. All evidence in paranormal research is therefore anecdotal. The evidence is either somewhat believable or not. Equipment used to measure activity (supposedly) is only really a gauge that there might be “something anomalous” there. It in no way proves or disproves a haunting. Until devices are invented that actually can measure what a spirit is, then all investigation is only educated guesswork. For now, no one knows with ANY certainly, what a ghost is or isn’t, so no equipment is available designed to detect them.
    There seems to be some need among you for an apology from G.O.N.E.R.S. as if that will make everything better. OK, if that’s what you need, we’re sorry. Does that make everything good for you now? I readily admitted that we screwed up by using the clients photo. We should only have posted evidence we personally collect. That is our policy from now on.
    I also think that much of the talk about pulling the show is based on good old fashioned jealousy. G.O.N.E.R.S. is going to be on TV and you’re not. The great thing is, the picture in question had nothing to do with us being picked. It was based on genuine activity at the location. The picture was given to us after the deal with Discovery was already done. It is not going to, or ever was going to, be used in the program.
    It would also be wise for a lot of you to remember that American Haunting is a “re-creation, dramatized, reality show”. We are not talking about a National Geographic scientific special here.
    As far as “stop investigating until you become more acquainted with scientific method” What incredible, self-important arrogance you posses. I’m am a 59 year old, former military and civilian police officer, with more years in investigation in the criminal and paranormal field than you probably have been alive. One mistake on our part , readily admitted and corrected, and you want to launch a witch hunt. Unbelievable ! Just a reminder, the photo you have, that came from our website is owned and copyrighted by Dale Kaczmarek, I have informed him that you and Worst Paranormal, are using it without his permission.

    1. Kurt, almost nothing you have said here has any basis in reality. I honestly don’t think you are doing yourselves or your team any favors by coming here and attempting to belittle people. Own your screw up and move on. The more you talk, insult, deflect, accuse….the less credibility you have.

      Also, you might want to change a few things on your website. On separate pages it states that “we’re not taken in by false claims…” and that “there is no fakery here.” Both are now demonstrably untrue.

      Say hi to Dale for me. It’s been a while since we’ve interviewed him on Strange Frequencies Radio. Truly, one of the nicest guys in the paranormal community.

  7. John E.L. Tenney says:

    And I thought I wasn’t going to have anything to read today. Thanks everyone! This Thai food is delicious.

  8. John E.L. Tenney says:

    I had no idea this was a site dedicated to Anthony Edwards and Linda Fiorentino, it was a pretty good movie when I was 15. Are we talking about the same thing?

    1. If they were interested in the truth, John, they would never publish a story until they had contacted the principals involved for comments and their side of the story. You can see by the original comments on the story, that Jason had made his mind made up before he had heard our side. Now he sticks to his erroneous conclusions, and continues to make accusations totally bereft of truth. It takes a person who is intellectually honest not to prejudge. It takes a person with moral character to admit they were wrong. We at G.O.N.E.R.S. have done that. When do you think Jason will ?? Never, I’ll bet. Either he doesn’t have the intellectual capacity to admit he was wrong or he is lacking in the moral character. He has in fact, made himself a laughing stock to his readers by continuing on his current path.

      1. Bobby the Paranormal Skeptic says:

        “It takes a person with moral character to admit they were wrong. We at G.O.N.E.R.S. have done that.” could you please show me where you admit you were wrong without shifting blame on someone else? All I have seen is, yes we were duped, however it was because someone we trusted gave us a photo and we had no reason to believe she would create hoax…that is nothing more than shifting blame.

  9. John just keeps opening the door into his nose. Curious isn’t it? One sign of mental illness is to keep doing or saying the same thing and expecting a different result. No, sir, John. People still don’t believe you but thanks- our website is being flooded by people who are now on our side and think that you are a fool, or worse. Just like the old saying: , ” The truth will win out”.

  10. Nicholas.callis says:

    People on your side? What side is that, that someone else is to blame? The appeal to popular opinion does not make a truth.

  11. Bobby the Paranormal Skeptic says:

    Kurt you still havent addressed my comment…where have you admitted you were wrong WITHOUT shifting blame? One cant admit they are wrong by blaming someone else.

  12. WOW, The ego of this guy thinking people are jealous because they are on one of the most hated shows Discovery has ?? We were asked to do a show as well, but looking bac I am happy to say I said “no thanks” after watching some of the evidence(so called) the presented. I am going to start a pool, who ever gets the closest to the number of orbs or questionable matrix pictures, or crystal clear EVP’s they present, wins. I have no idea what you win, but you do. (actually, it’s a fake prize, like a dust bunny or bug)
    As far as the scientific approach, we have some good evp’s that back up a place we have investigated. Two separate occasions, same room, and close to the same EVP. First one was a child saying “grampa” second was the same voice saying “mom” as if they were lost or looking for her. It’s not conclusive, but it is a start. As far as using K2 meters, cell sensors, even DVR systems. ALOT can be dismissed, they do help find high emf, or even the cat running around . And that in itself can at least give the people help in understanding what they are hearing or feeling.

  13. Dyedye says:

    First of all, totally agree Jerry. My team had been offered the ” opportunity” to be on a TV show a dozen times over the years and we have said no every time, for the same reasons. We would never jeopardize our credibility by allowing someone else to do a final edit on any investigation or statement. Plus, we all happen to have educations and successful careers and have no desire to start a second one. We are pretty secure in who we are and don’t need the validation. I am truly embarrassed for them in regards to the jealousy statement, it was so discrediting I cringed when I read it.
    My next point is that I may have not been investigating since 1985, but I have a true passion for the field and an interest in being the “expert” clients assume we are when they call us. This is why I read books on the paranormal constantly. I have shelves full of them for reference, to lend, and sometimes for a good laugh. Probably 1 in 5 of them have the famous Bachelors Grove Cemetary photo in it. How disturbing that an entire team of “investigators” did not make the connection, And that Kurt, the team leader has never even seen it! Appalling!
    Lastly, I CAN NOT believe they would use ” evidence” from someone not on their team! Are you kidding me?! That is elementary! What an embarrassment to the field. Sometimes I want to kick our team director in the head. He throws EVERYTHING out. Evidence is cross referenced and debunked and cross correlated out of existence until what we are left with can be explained no other way. Literally none of us could sleep at night if we ever thought we presented something that was not paranormal. Our clients rely on us ( or should) to be extremely critical with our evidence. not to be would be unethical.
    Jason, although this was yet another embarrassing blow to our field. I truly appreciate you reporting this and staying on top of it. It’s the right thing to do. My colleague asked me, “What would you do if you were them?” I replied that I would have addressed it immediately, apologized on behalf of the Team, told people how incredibly embarrassed we are and would have vowed to get to the bottom of it and act accordingly. I would then have humbly ask them to please reserve judgement until I could release more information on the situation. Had Goners done that, they would have survived this. Btw, I commented on their Yelp page giving them one star. I told myself, to be fair, I woul remove the post once they explained, they did above and I removed the post, but not before Kurt could post and try AGAIN to shift responsibility,
    “The review by dye dye h. Is a complete fabrication by a troll/spammer, who never used our companies services, doesn’t know us and in fact, lives on the other side of the country. Such people troll the Internet, looking for people/companies to criticize/ bad mouth. It is a mental illness, that causes these people, with such empty lives, to get their thrill by this kind of activity.very unfortunate that these people are allowed to be on the Internet.”

    Wow! Wow! Wow! Lucky for him, UNLIKE him I have ethics and stayed true to myself and removed my post. Plus dealing with him is kind of like stepping on a kitten…he is that delusional.

  14. Kurt says:

    Dye Dye: You say that when we found out the photo was bogus we should have, “addressed it immediately, apologized (to who, YOU?) and asked people to reserve judgement until we could release more information”. That’s EXACTLY what we did! The morning I found out the picture was fake (at 6AM) I was on the phone with Dale Kaczmarek explaining what had happened and apologizing for the screw up. We IMMEDIATELY pulled the picture from fb and our website. The delusional person here is YOU, Dye Dye, you, who went out of your way to put a completely false review of G.O.N.E.R.S. on YELP (for God sakes) don’t you have a life? It was people like you who kept moving the goal post back everytime we posted an explanation. You are one sick person Dye Dye. Get help.

  15. skeptical yet professional says:

    Hello Everyone! I came accross this blog in a google search on the facility in question. From time to time I watch the show and will often research the locations they are about. I am a former paranormal investigator. Former, because my paying career has become much more demanding and does not allow me to give each invistigation the time it deserves. During my time as an investigator, the safety of my client and my team were my number one priority, and closely behind was differentiating between what was real and what was not, and of course……professionalism. It is unfortunate that a false photo was posted by a member of the paranormal research community. This type of incident takes away from the credibility of the entire community and not just the individuals involved. However, we all make mistakes and as long as we learn from them, isn’t that all that really matters. I am in no way, shape or form condoning what G.O.N.E.R.S. has done. Please don’t misunderstand me. That is not my intent here. I would like to point out a few things though. In reading this blog, I felt very disappointed in the lack of professionalism from everyone involved in these posts. If the paranormal research community wants to be taken seriously, then we need to take ourselves seriously. This means coming together and helping eachother to grow, not attacking eachother like caged animals. This type of behavior only takes more credibility away from this community. It makes the community look unstable. Perhaps a way to handle this would have been to contact G.O.N.E.R.S., tell them that you heard about what happened with the picture and let them know that you or a member of your team has been outstanding in being able to determine the credibility of pictures provided to you by your clients and that you would be happy to help them going forward. If this community could come together and help eachother by sharing their knowledge, instead of throwing daggers at eachother, perhaps more people outside the community would take them seriously.

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