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Local Version of Ghost Hunters Coming Soon?

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Description: SPITSA on TV?
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mdg
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« on: August 19, 2009, 12:58:37 PM »

South Africans will be able to watch a local version of "Ghost Hunters" sometime soon.
I'm not sure how soon "soon" is, and I suppose it all depends on if and when the SABC sorts itself out.

Anyway, the ghost hunting team is S.P.I.T.S.A. and they have an intro of the pilot show up on YouTube. See http://www.youtube.com/v=Bk0YbSDEdX8#
I'm sure that creative editing, such as in the U.S.A. Ghost Hunters series, will prevail and not a single sceptical point of view will feature.

Let me just add some background to my interest in SPITSA. I've been looking at doing a couple of posts about the paranormal on my blog, after a discussion a while ago about ghosts - I also live near the area where the "Walkerville Ghost" is supposed to haunt a lonely stretch of road. So I decided to go onto SPITSA's website and have a look at some of their investigations. There were a few things that stood out for me...

1. They claim that their investigations are scientific.

2. There were a lot of discrepancies in the investigations - for eg. they use orbs as a means of detecting ghosts, but in some cases where orbs were found, they claimed that there was no paranormal activity, and I wondered why.

3. They claim a high "strike rate" in terms of successful investigations

So, I contacted them via email and asked some questions.( I also wanted to try and get myself invited on one of their investigations and hopefully get one or two of you -fellow sceptics - to come along too.)
They were quite prompt in their reply and, perhaps I misread them, but they didn't seem too keen on having a sceptic along. Although they said that they welcomed observers - for reasons of transparency- they were concerned that I may not accept their findings as definitive proof and that I may "tarnish" their reputation with what I had to say on my blog. Not that I was going to mention them by name on my blog, I was just going to talk about my experiences with some ghost hunters and about how an investigation was conducted. Perhaps I still may get lucky and be invited after I replied to their concerns this morning.

With regard to their investigations being scientific, I asked whether they thought it was scientific because they used technology. Every single member of the team talks about having had a paranormal experience, so I felt the investigation couldn't be all that scientific seeing as it was being conducted by "believers". I was told that in fact the team were all sceptics "in their own right" and that that's how they conducted their investigations, but reading through their cases it's very obvious that each investigation is approached from a believer's point of view.
I've gone through all the evidence they've compiled in each investigation, most of it is photo's of orbs, EVP's and more recently, thermographic imaging - and  very flimsy as evidence goes. However, one EVP stands out - I'll link to it as soon as I find it again - it is either an outright hoax or the clearest ghost voice I have ever heard caught on tape.

If anyone is interested in reading the correspondence between me and SPITSA, I'll post it on this thread.



« Last Edit: August 19, 2009, 13:43:43 PM by bluegray V, Reason: added description to topic » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2009, 13:55:45 PM »

Although they said that they welcomed observers - for reasons of transparency- they were concerned that I may not accept their findings as definitive proof and that I may "tarnish" their reputation with what I had to say on my blog.
If they are afraid of tarnishing their reputation, they should make sure they have solid evidence before making extraordinary claims. Then they have nothing to worry about from any skeptic.
If anyone is interested in reading the correspondence between me and SPITSA, I'll post it on this thread.
Yes please. Wink
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« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2009, 15:00:10 PM »

The mouseover texts on the members page are revealing.  You can forget joining SPITSA unless you’re an uncritical dupe.  It seems that the person closest to a neutral, dispassionate demeanour is their “Engineering Specialist”:
Quote from: Reynhard Heymans
His interest in the paranormal was more curiosity, setting his own objective in proving / challenging the phenomena scientifically implementing all available engineering equipment.




The remainder of SPITSA’s staff already appears to know that the existence of the paranormal is simply unquestionable:
Quote from: Tracey Johnson
Through out [sic] her whole life she has been passionate about matters pertaining to the afterlife . This is a subject, which Tracey has been researching for the past 10 years.
As far as she can remember, she always had an interest in the paranormal field and did lots of research in this field on her own.  She investigated any possible haunting on her own until she met Tracey. Her knowledge and personal experiences makes her an asset to the team.
Quote from: Mitch Tuba
He … started gaining interest into [sic] the paranormal world after some very explicit personal experiences. His 20 years of [sic] working in industry mainly in the technical field has lent some value expertise to the group.
[A]lthough he was a bit sceptic [sic] about the existence of the paranormal at first, he soon realized that it was a reality and therefore decided to join SPITSA.
Quote from: Alex Kotsis
[H]e … himself has had some paranormal experiences in the past,  which has prompted his fascination with the subject and this has lead [sic] him to join Spitsa.
Quote from: Alfred
He started gaining interest in the paranormal after he had a couple of experiences since the age of 6, wich [sic] left him with many unanswered questions.
Quote from: Ashley Do Casal
I am based in Johannesburg but originate from Zimbabwe, I have been involved with the paranormal for about 8+ years now and have had a few experiences of my own.
Quote from: Belinda Buckle
I am South African and started gaining interest in the paranormal after working in a restaurant which has been declared haunted.
… and the pièce de résistance
Quote from: Art Long
I am a hypnotherapist, Traditional doctor, explorer and writer, originally from Australia. Involved in naturopathy and hypnotherapy for 40 years, I also have been studying esoteric subjects and supernatural phenomena for 37 years, lecturing, and training people in psychic abilities. … I have been fascinated by the spirituality and ancient history of South Africa since I was asked to take a curse of the Mapungubwe Museum of the University of Pretoria. This was placed upon it after a Sangoma walked barefoot from Tzaneen to ask for the return of his ancestors and was refused. After removing the curse, I pursued the return of the skeletal remains archaeologists had removed from Mapungubwe. Finally enlisting the help of our then President Mbeki who vowed to make this happen and did so in November 2007. Since then I have been endeavouring to discover as much as possible about the lost histories and mysteries of Africa to record future generations.


SPITSA’s findings will no doubt hold very few surprises, if any at all.  What is needed is a team of sceptics that does a parallel investigation (or an immediate follow-up), and which has a channel for publicising its findings on the same cases.  But people don’t want to know about rational explanations.  They’d much rather be wowed by woo-woo until the novelty wears off and/or more exciting woo-woo comes along.

'Luthon64
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Mandarb
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« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2009, 15:33:28 PM »

That last bio made me laugh.
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mdg
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« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2009, 16:45:29 PM »

Quote from: Mefiante
What is needed is a team of sceptics that does a parallel investigation (or an immediate follow-up), and which has a channel for publicising its findings on the same cases.


Exactly! I think I was a bit naive in thinking that they would do a "proper" investigation or at least have one sceptic on the team.

Anyway, below is my first set of questions and their replies. I'll add the comments I sent this morning below in a seperate post, I'm not sure if they'll reply.


MDG:
1. You say that your investigations are scientific, why? Is it because you feel that you are using technology to find ghosts? The reason I am asking is because not one of your investigations offers up any other possibility for "supernatural" causes - for instance, faulty wiring or plumbing, or draughty areas. Also, you're approaching every investigation with the premise that ghosts do exist, so that's what you set out to prove or disprove instead of looking for other possible explanations.

SPITSA:
Quote
I would just like to back track here for a moment. The whole object of our
work is not necessarily to find ghosts or paranormal activity, rather to
document any allegations of such. Clients will mail us with reportings of
various types of activity and request an investigation. We do not disbelieve
or try to disprove these allegations, but rather approach it from the stand
point that "if it is there", we will document it in one form or another. In
order to do that, we do make use of various pieces of equipment and
technology, but again, only in the pursuit of documenting these alleged
activities.


MDG:
2. On your blog you have an article describing what ghosts are and you say that orbs are a manifestation of a haunting or presence, yet on some investigations where you have found orbs, you state that there is no paranormal activity, why?

SPITSA:
Quote
Yes, I have to concede that the subject of "orbs" is rather vague. There is
so much speculation around orbs and what they are, and even the opinions of
those learned in the subject vary from being nothing more than dust and or
moisture to ghostly apparitions about to manifest. What I will say is that
we do believe that it would be incorrect to assume an investigation site
haunted, purely because of the presence of orbs. We are certainly by no
means the experts in this field. As time has gone on, we as a group are
slowly giving orbs less significance than ever before.


MDG:
3. Do you offer your clients any other explanations for what they're experiencing other than a paranormal one? For example, with regard to your last  investigation where a person was pinned down in their sleep and choked, this person was possibly experiencing sleep paralysis. It's called hypnogogia and hypnopompia, something I've personally experienced, but have never related to paranormal activity.

SPITSA:
Quote
Yes indeed. And that is one of the reasons why we make use of certain
equipment like electromagnetic field detectors.
Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (ES) is a physiological disorder
characterized by symptoms directly brought on by exposure to electromagnetic
fields. It produces neurological and allergic-type symptoms. Symptoms may
include, but are not limited to, headache, eye irritation, dizziness,
nausea, skin rash, facial swelling, weakness, fatigue, pain in joints and/or
muscles, buzzing/ringing in ears, skin numbness, abdominal pressure and
pain, breathing difficulty, and irregular heartbeat. Those affected persons
may experience an abrupt onset of symptoms following exposure to a new EMF
such as fields associated with a new computer or with new fluorescent
lights, or a new home or work environment. And what we have found is that
when people do not understand the effects of high levels of EMF and
experience such symptoms, they may often attribute such, to paranormal
activity. Debunking is the primary function of a credible and responsible
paranormal investigator. It defeats your purpose if you accept natural or
explainable events as paranormal phenomenon. An often overlooked natural
cause for some reported " paranormal activity" is EMF exposure, and the
symptoms that can follow..


MDG:
4. Are there any sceptics on your team?

SPITSA:
Quote
Our team is made up of individuals with very specific expertise pertinent to
the very tasks they are expected to perform. We have on our team qualified
engineers, thermographers, professionals and others. Because of our
approach, each team member in their own right is in fact a skeptic. The aim
of their work is to prove otherwise..


MDG:
5. Would you consider allowing a couple of sceptics to tag along on one of your investigations to observe?

SPITSA:
Quote
We would always be too glad to have observers present on any of our
investigations, and in fact would even encourage it from the point of view
of transparency. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try to present your
findings as they have happened/occurred, there will always be a small
fraction of people that will question your integrity and dispute the
validity of any evidence that is captured, citing that is very simple (and
especially in today's technological era) to manufacture, fabricate and
duplicate evidence. By doing that, we have absolutely nothing to gain other
than a bit of sensationalism, which in most cases, is easily disproved with
the net result being that once your credibility is tarnished, it becomes
almost impossible to regain it. And then who is the laughing stock?.


MDG:
6. Do you charge for your investigations?

SPITSA:
Quote
We do not charge any fee for our services. All our work is completely
voluntary. Our members give up their time and disciplines simply for the
love of the work and camaraderie we share in our group. Our operating
overheads are completely self funded, however, from time to time we do
receive generous donations from clients who have appreciated our efforts and
time. These donations are generally used for the improvement of our
equipment and acquisition of new equipment.

I sincerely hope that your questions have been answered to your
satisfaction. We look forward to hearing from you again and always welcome
any critics, comments and or suggestions. Please feel free to write us at
any time.

Fond regards,

The Spitsa Team..
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mdg
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« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2009, 16:54:29 PM »

Here are the comments on their reply............

HI SPITSA Team,
 
Thank you for your prompt reply. I'd just like to comment on your replies.
 
1.With regard to your investigations being scientific.....
 
From your reply it seems to me that you only go on anecdotal evidence and investigate the story, so this doesn't make it a scientific investigation.I was under the impression that an investigation would begin with eliminating all other possibilities such as electrical faults, engineering faults, and perhaps possible mental health conditions of the client, before looking at the possibility of a paranormal explanation. Please understand that I am not saying that all your clients are mentally unstable; even an overactive imagination could be one of many other possible explanations. That said, doing a more thorough investigation would make it more "scientific" and lend more credence to your findings. I also think it would be better for your client to know that what they're experiencing may have a natural explanation instead of a supernatural one.
 
2.Orbs.....
 
As you admit, orbs cannot be relied upon as evidence of the paranormal. It has been proven time and again to be things such as dust or moisture as you pointed out.
 
3.Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity......
 
Like orbs, this is a phenomenon that has not been proven. Surely if someone was experiencing ES, they would experience everywhere they go and not just in the area where paranormal activity is happening? We are surrounded by technology, so it doesn't make sense that someone sensitive to electric fields would only experience it in a particular place. If you are referring to geopathic stress, where "negative" waves escape from faults in the Earth, there is absolutely no evidence that these "negative" waves exist. The only thing that could possibly escape from faults in the Earth are gases, which would be a scientific explanation and not a paranormal one.
 
4.Skeptics on your team......
 
You say that each member of the team is a skeptic in their own right. With all due respect, each member on your team - on your site - says that they have had a paranormal experience, therefore they cannot be skeptics. Each one is investigating as a believer in the paranormal. A skeptic on your team would be looking at the paranormal claim and searching for every other possible explanation before saying that any findings are possibly paranormal.
 
5.Skeptics observing an investigation......
 
Please refer to my previous points at 1. and 4. I appreciate that you would welcome people to observe your investigations. However, perhaps I'm misreading your reply, but you seems to think that anyone (i.e.a skeptic) would be observing solely to "tarnish" your reputation. This is not my intention at all. I have read extensively, over many years, on the paranormal and my belief is that mysteries should neither be fostered nor dismissed. Instead, they should be carefully investigated with a view toward solving them, preferably using a more scientific approach.
 
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Mefiante
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« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2009, 17:41:27 PM »

Very good, mdg!

Quote from: WELCOME TO SPITSA
Spitsa has had a phenomenal strike rate in terms of successful investigations, which means that the group has come away from investigations with undisputable evidence of paranormal activity in at least one form or more, where the evidence that was captured cannot be explained scientifically, physically or in any other logical way.
Right, now I’m really convinced… Roll Eyes

Here’s a suggestion:  First, look at how many of the 30-odd “investigations” reported on at the SPITSA website find in favour of the paranormal.  If the fraction is high (as I suspect it probably is) then it may be worth approaching the SABC (or the production company) with this fact as well as the suggestion of extending the show’s format so that each episode in effect consists of two halves involving the same site of alleged supernatural activity.  The first half presents SPITSA’s investigation and findings, and the second those of a team of sceptics.  The selling point would of course be the resultant controversy, which most people love – as evidenced by the popularity of “Reality TV.”

I think the show should be called “Survivor Spiritland.”

'Luthon64
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« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2009, 18:15:11 PM »

Thanks Mefiante/'Luthon 64 - not sure which nym to use, as you use both  Wink

I am going through each investigation, and you're right, the strike rate is high. I'll come back with the numbers later on - I've been working on the discrepancies of the orbs.

I think that it's a good idea to offer the people a sceptical investigation. As I said in my reply, clients should be given the natural explanation of the activity instead of a supernatural one, as that's the explanation in 99% of the investigations.

Another point I'd like to bring up....., they research the locations before and after an investigation to check up on it's history, so any interesting titbit of history is related to the activity in the house and shoehorned into the explanation.


Something else interesting......
When I was reading the bio's on the team, Art Long's one jumped out because I saw he was a member of the Makomati community. I had received an email last week inviting me to support the Makomati community as the sender knows that I support preservation of archaeological sites. A bit of digging (pardon the pun) on my part revealed that the committee is made up of pseudoscientists and other flakes. Two stand out - Michael Tellinger who wrote Slave Species of God,  and Dr. Cyril Hromnik who thinks the Makomati site is "proof" of his theory that Indians settled in Southern Africa thousands of years before Europeans. They assert that the Makomati site is 75 000 years old, with Adam's Calendar as their prime piece of "evidence".

The mind boggles.

P.S. I Like the Survivor Spiritland idea!  Grin


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Jane of the Jungle
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« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2009, 21:58:33 PM »

Quote
The first half presents SPITSA’s investigation and findings, and the second those of a team of sceptics.  The selling point would of course be the resultant controversy, which most people love – as evidenced by the popularity of “Reality TV.”

Very good idea Luthon, except I don’t think the Ghost hunters would agree to something like that, maybe because they know chances are that they would be proven faked in such investigations.  Pity though, because this could be a nice way to proof to the nation that they WANT to see the Supernatural in every natural occurrence! Maybe

Maybe a program like “Supernatural Investigate”  where people who experience such events report it to you and base your program on investigating facts, but on the other hand ......don’t think people would like to feel like a$$es when proven mentally unstable on National Tv  Wink
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Rigil Kent
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« Reply #9 on: August 20, 2009, 08:40:19 AM »

...don’t think people would like to feel like a$$es when proven mentally unstable on National Tv  Wink

Quite. Maybe the reason why the S.P.I.T.S.A. team comes over as very open to the idea of paranormal happenings is to encourage people coming forward with their stories in the first place. Imagine, for example, that you are convinced that you've just seen a ghost. You have the option of reporting the sighting to either a bunch of hard nosed scientists, or a group of sympathetic specialists. Who you gonna call? Perhaps its a bluff. Wink Dare we hope?

One thing that I've always found especially amusing is the reported use of "technology" to locate spiritual activity. If the technology responds with a positive reading, it means that it measured a change in  something physical, right? It has to be, because the technology would have been invented for that purpose, and has to rely on some physical stimulus. Therefor, whatever it measures must be of a known nature. So the spirit must presumably either emit something physically recognizable, or cause a disturbance in something physically recognisable. Either way, this means the spooktechnician must have knowledge of spirits' physical nature. This seems oxymoronic.

Mintaka

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« Reply #10 on: August 20, 2009, 09:31:23 AM »

Here's the "hit rate" for SPITSA from their case files.....

Case 1.Not haunted
Case 2.Possible haunting
Case 3.Not Haunted
Case 4.Inconclusive
Case 5.Not haunted, but paranormal activity
Case 6.Yes
Case 7.Yes
Case 8.Yes
Case 9.Not haunted, but paranormal activity
Case 10.No
Case 11.Yes, residual haunting
Case 12.No
Case 13.No
Case 14.Paranormal activity
Case 15.Intelligent haunting
Case 16.Possible paranormal activity
Case 17 Withheld
Case 18.Paranormal activity
Case 19.Paranormal activity + presence
Case 20.Inconclusive. Not haunted, but investigators "touched"
Case 21.No
Case 22.Paranormal activity + thermal image
Case 23.Haunted
Case 24 Withheld
Case 25.Paranormal activity
Case 26.Paranormal activity
Case 27.No paranormal activity, but unexplained activity
Case 28 Paranormal activity
Case 29.No paranormal activity, but unexplained activity
Case 30,paranormal activity
Case 31.Paranormal activity

As you can see the rate is quite high and there is some confusion between paranormal activity and unexplained activity
I'm struggling to find the EVP I spoke about - but I'm not giving up  Wink


mdg
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« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2009, 11:24:52 AM »

I'm left musing with no 15 - Intelligent Haunting...

When I die, I want to go do some intelligent haunting somewheres - a library maybe, or possibly some University locale.
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« Reply #12 on: August 20, 2009, 11:40:04 AM »

Maybe some people deserves OR need to look like an a$$hooooole in order to wake up  Wink

Quote
You have the option of reporting the sighting to either a bunch of hard nosed scientists, or a group of sympathetic specialists. Who you gonna call?

Well.....I’m not a scientist, but a person better not call or tell me about such sighting, cause I sure as hell don’t share their sentiment. No cure for stupidity.  Only my point of view. Roll Eyes

I can’t help but to wonder if the first “proof” of Ghost sightings didn’t come when people started to record over and over old recordings, distorted background images (like the Video tapes we used to know)  These only got so much easier when computers became available  Wink

Excuse me for asking but:

Case 5.Not haunted, but paranormal activity  (what is the difference according to them ?)

Case 15.Intelligent haunting  (uhh hu what, Allien like Ghosts or are they intelligent enough to keep quite or disappear when investigated) ?


Case 20.Inconclusive. Not haunted, but investigators "touched" (Extremely considerate toward the complainer hey,Could be a bummer to find out it was rats in the roof and you thought it was your Grandma trying to get in touch!)

Case 27.No paranormal activity, but unexplained activity (so do they admit their
Technology are limited or did they just not want to many No's on the list) ?


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« Reply #13 on: August 20, 2009, 12:25:41 PM »

There are different types of haunting...

1. Residual haunt - the ghost is not aware of it's surroundings and is sort of like a repetitive looped movie. Think of it as someone repeating the same behaviour over and over again, unaware of any other people witnessing what he/she doing. These type of ghosts cannot interact with it's surroundings.

2.Intelligent haunt - these ghosts are capable of interacting with the living and it's surroundings. They will also be the type of ghost who will deliver messages. Think of Patrick Swayze in "ghost"

3. Poltergeists - usually moves objects. For some reason ghost hunters think these are the "cheeky" spirits of children because they're so mischievous.

4. Demonic haunt - the kind you really don't want - think of Amityville horror.


I don't understand how they determine whether it's paranormal or not, either because it's not consistent,

Also, cases 29 and 30 are two different locations, but give the exact same photos, videos and EVP's as evidence in both cases.
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« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2009, 12:45:26 PM »

Thanks Mefiante/'Luthon 64 - not sure which nym to use, as you use both  Wink
Pleasure, and either name is fine. Smiley



don’t think people would like to feel like a$$es when proven mentally unstable on National Tv  Wink
That’s true enough, although the focus should hardly be to make fools of people.  Rather, it should have an ethic much like a quiz show where it is both usual and accepted that several someones will come up short.  In any case, people will believe what they believe, regardless of what is presented, and the two-pronged format (SPITSA vs. sceptics) will, I think, go some way towards keeping both believers and sceptics interested.



Perhaps its a bluff. Wink Dare we hope?
While that would be a pleasant subtlety, I don’t think it is very likely.  It certainly doesn’t accord with the part of the SPITSA blurb cited here.



Concerning the SPITSA investigations, I think one can categorise their findings into three broad classes, namely “Paranormal” (P), “Ordinary” (O) and “Uncertain” (U).  A finding of “haunted” falls into category P.  Category O includes the “no paranormal activity, but unexplained activity” findings on the assumption that the “unexplained activity” is explicable by natural terms.  The “possible” and the two “withheld” verdicts are U’s because the reader has no clear commitment from SPITSA’s investigators.

Using the above scheme, one finds 17 P’s (54.8%), eight O’s (25.8%) and six U’s (19.4%).  Excluding the U’s, SPITSA gives a definite verdict in 80.6% of its cases, and these verdicts are split 68% P and 32% O.  Thus, SPITSA finds paranormal activity more than twice as often as it rejects it.

I think the bias is clear enough considering how allegedly elusive the “paranormal” is.

ETA: The verdict on Case 20 is absolutely priceless for its unintentional accuracy.  Experience with believers in the paranormal has taught us that the ontological dilemma of how exactly the supernatural can possibly manifest in and affect the natural has no persuasive value for the paranormalist.  All you get is lots of handwaving and deflection when this most telling of questions is raised.  Finally, one must ask whether the “Residual Haunt” classification indicates that ghosts and spirits can be severely autistic.

'Luthon64
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