Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Swamp thing redux

A friend of mine, knowing both my Louisiana origins and my passion for all things cryptozoological, sent me the following clip of a news broadcast alleging that some hunters caught a photograph of a zombie-like creature that had trashed their hunting camp in Berwick, Louisiana.  A security camera at the camp caught the image right before the camera was destroyed.  (See it here.)

Well, first I must comment upon the totally, like, you know, amazing articulateness of the, like, newscasters, both of whom like made me totally wonder how anyone would, like, you know, hire them to do the news.  Secondly, the word "Photoshop" screamed itself across my brain as soon as I saw the photograph.

Among the many problems with this photo, the most important one was that the creature's eyes were glowing.  This only happens when you take a photograph with a flash at night -- the glow is the reflection of the flash from the tapetum lucidum, a reflective membrane at the back of the retina of certain animals.  Security cameras, not having flashes, wouldn't create this effect.  So unless you believe that a zombie's eyes glow from the Fire of Their Inner Evil, this one seems to be a non-starter.

Watching this clip of course started me on a veritable orgy of monster-watching, and even if predictably I thought none of them convincing, I found a few that were worthy of honorable mention. My favorite one, in the chills department, is this one, which supposedly captures images of a "shadow creature" taken by some hikers who were using a videocamera.  The videocamera was later found, Blair-Witch-style, and "no one has ever come to claim it."  It's definitely creepy -- not to be watched at night.  However, once again to point out only the main problem with it, it is supposed to come from "Emerson County" in which mysterious disappearances had occurred in 1957, and this camera was found only two miles from where those disappearances had taken place.  Unfortunately for the creators of this video, there is no Emerson County in any state in the United States -- surprising, I know, but I just checked the official Index of Counties, and it goes from Emanuel County, Georgia to Emery County, Utah with nary an Emerson to be found.  So, First Rule of Creepy Video Creation is:  If you expect your viewers to believe that your video is real, don't state that it was taken in a place that does not, in fact, exist.

Here's another, with a bit of a frame from "The Paranormal Report." Besides the obvious problem with Clayton Morris' statement that the reporter who sent it in had no reason to fake it because he didn't want his name mentioned, there's another, and subtler problem with it, that makes me certain it's faked.  Watch it and see if you can figure it out.

Ready for the answer?

The creature's shadow is pointing the wrong direction.  Look at the shadow on the man's face; it's clear that the sun is coming from the right side of the frame (from the viewer's perspective), i.e. from behind the cameraman's right shoulder.  The creature's shadow should therefore be pointing up and to the left (again, from the viewer's perspective).  It points up and to the right.  Unless "interdimensional creatures" block sunlight in a different fashion than we ordinary, plain-old-dimensional creatures, it's a fake.

This next one has all of the classic elements; hikers in a remote area, videotaping just for the hell of it, and accidentally capturing a clip of a bigfoot.  "Did you see that... in the clearing!" is also required dialogue to insert somewhere in there.  Even the site is well-chosen; Mt. St. Helens is supposedly the epicenter of Pacific Northwest bigfoot sightings.  (There's a lava tube on the side of the mountain called "Ape Cave," which some claim is because of the prevalence of sasquatches in the area -- but the real explanation is more prosaic.  It was named after a hiking group called the "St. Helens Apes" in the 1950s.)  I don't have any particular reason to claim that this one's a hoax, except that I tend to instinctively doubt clips like this because of the obvious likelihood of fakery; but to my eyes, it does look a little more like a guy in a monkey suit than it does like my personal conception of bigfoot.

Lastly, I have to give some credit to the makers of this video.  Myself, I didn't know that bigfoot wears Nike tennis shoes, but I guess even cryptozooids have to cave in to fashion trends in athletic wear.  And the tag line "The people in the car and the cameraman were never heard from again" is pure brilliance.

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