Phantasmagoria Features: A Picture Is No Longer Worth Ten Thousand Words

One of reputed contactee Billy Meier's UFO photographs, which are widely regarded as hoaxes.

One of reputed contactee Billy Meier's UFO photographs, which are widely regarded as hoaxes.

By Corey Schjoth

'A picture is worth ten thousand words' (Fred R. Barnard, 1927)

I have been interested in all things paranormal as long as I could remember. I distinctly remember going to the annual book fair at my grade school buying books about monsters and UFOs. I loved watching shows like In Search Of and Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World.  I was fascinated by the stories, videos and photographs that were told and captured by those investigating the phenomena. The photographs captivated me and I was intrigued by what was captured and I wanted to know more. Forty years later and I still feel that same wonder and intrigue when I see what people claim is a photograph or video of the paranormal, but those feelings have been muted somewhat by our modern culture.  

Today I’m far more skeptical of any video or photograph that comes across the internet and social media. The easy access of Photoshop and video editing software has played a HUGE roll in my skepticism. Any person nowadays with money and a little practice can produce Hollywood quality footage out of their basement.  Savvy hoaxers try not to make their work too good but just good enough to make it believable. This I’m afraid has majorly hurt the paranormal community.

I watch paranormal investigation shows like Ghost Hunters and Finding Bigfoot as they constantly try to capture evidence of the paranormal. But what definitive evidence would that be? For Bigfoot and UFO evidence a body and or an actual UFO craft shown on the national news studied by genuine accredited scientists would be definitive proof of their existence. But that proof, like all of the paranormal, remains frustratingly elusive. Stories abound with hunters shooting and killing a Bigfoot but for some reason they don’t take the necessary steps to recover the body and that definitive proof is lost. With the case of UFOs people have kept pieces of a crashed UFO and have been tested with mixed results. One such story that demonstrates the frustration with obtaining creditable evidence was featured on a Ghost Adventures episode when they visited the Stardust Ranch in Arizona. The owner stated in the episode he had killed several “aliens” that invaded his home and if he cut off the head the body would not disappear. Nothing more was said about what he did to the bodies after he had killed them. I felt the lack of any more investigation on such a monumental subject left me with more questions than answers and the lack of investigation made me question the validity of the entire episode. I personally asked one of the crew members from the show what happened to the alien bodies after they were killed, and he said the owner took them away and that’s all that was said. Wait, WHAT? You have an “actual” alien body and you don’t make any effort to make it public and available for study?!  That IS the holy grail of the paranormal! That evidence alone would change the paradigm of humanity as we know it.

The 1936 photograph of the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, which many investigators believe represents actual anomalous activity.

The 1936 photograph of the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall, which many investigators believe represents actual anomalous activity.

For ghost hunters the definitive evidence is far more elusive if not nonexistent. A body cannot be recovered, or any physical evidence obtained to be studied by other investigators outside of the reported place of activity. EVPs can be taken and analyzed by investigators, but much of what happens in hauntings is by personal experience. Sights, sounds, smells, feelings and touches are what makes the haunting phenomena real to us and makes us believers. Video and photographic evidence may look intriguing but will fail in turning a hardened skeptic in to a believer. The only why I have seen any skeptic change their point-of-view is by having their own personal experience.      

I have seen some amazing images of what people clam are ghosts. I will always be the first to get excited about looking at one and studying the strange image. But I also get very apprehensive about what I’m looking at and I always want to know that back story of how that image was created.  Like most people I want to believe but I don’t want to believe in a lie. I want to know that what I think is real, is real. Nothing gets me more jaded when what I think is a genuine paranormal photograph is later disproved.

Getting a clear sharp image or footage of any type of paranormal phenomena will never be proof of the paranormal; simply because no one will believe it. A clear, steady, sharp, well-lit image of a Bigfoot, UFO, lake monster or ghost will automatically send the most gullible believer in to a full-blown hoax rant. One thing is certain with the paranormal is that it’s never direct and straight forward. It’s always elusive, mysterious and unpredictable.  For centuries the only “proof” of the paranormal has always been through personal witness. That I think is the only and best way for us to gain any amount of “proof” of this strange world.

As I travel to a place reported to have paranormal activity I never try to find a way to capture evidence of what is going on, but I do hope to have some sort of personal experience, which often does not happen. What I truly enjoy is the journey there and back, the people I meet and the wonderful feeling of being at a place where something strange happened or may still happen today. For me the process is far more rewarding then results. I would absolutely love to have a personal experience or photograph some weird creature that I can share with the curious. But I also know I will never capture the definitive proof of Bigfoot, UFOs, lake monsters or ghosts. Because I know any kind of definitive proof takes more than just a good photograph, which is most likely hoaxed by some computer savvy teenager with a good computer in his mom’s basement. The quote I began this post with ‘A picture is worth ten thousand words’ may have been true at one point in time, but as of today that phrase is no longer valid.

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Tobias Wayland