ASSAP: Paranormal Research
ASSAP: Paranormal Education
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Digitally manipulated photo

Hoaxers don't manipulate!

There are ways to detect manipulated photos (like the poor effort above). However, good hoaxers will realise it is better to use old-fashioned techniques, like suspending objects in the air from nylon thread. The photo will then be passed as 'unmanipulated' by experts but it doesn't mean it is necessarily 'good'! Try to reproduce the photo using easily available materials to see how it could be done.

Confabulation is not lying

You will find that witness stories seldom agree completely and may vary a little over time. We seldom experience things the same way and memories can change over time. We even sometimes 'fill in' missing details of memories so that they 'make sense' (confabulation). This is all normal! It is stories that agree perfectly and never change that might be 'rehearsed'. Those are the ones that might give rise to suspicion. Mercifully, hoaxing is rare so don't expect to see much of it.
© Maurice Townsend 2008


Detecting hoaxes

How can you spot a hoax? The most obvious thing to arouse your suspicions should be if 'it's too good to be true'. If you're offered a perfect, high resolution photo of an obvious flying saucer complete with aliens posing outside, start to wonder! The vast majority of reports of anomalous phenomena occur unexpectedly. Witnesses rarely have time to notice details, never mind take superb photos with the top of the range camera they very rarely happen to be carrying!

By contrast, hoaxers want people to believe, otherwise what's the point (see right)! They want to provide you with such good evidence that your only realistic options are that it really was a ghost, UFO, monster, whatever, or a hoax. They don't want a fuzzy photo dismissed as Venus behind a cloud or a sky lantern.

Of course, this doesn't mean that all excellent evidence should be treated with suspicion. However, you should always keep an open mind to the possibility of hoax. Don't rely on your impressions of the witness. Good hoaxers will appear credible - they want to succeed!

Investigating hoaxes

The best way to investigate the possibility of a hoax is a discreet analysis of all the evidence, looking for discrepancies. If you are looking at what is usually apparently unambiguous evidence, there are bound to be discrepancies, unless it really is a ghost or extra-terrestrial craft!

Get several people involved and cross-check all details, concentrating on the supposedly paranormal bits of the experience. Ask yourself, if this is real, would it actually be like this? If not, what is wrong? See if you can reproduce the effect. It is often much easier than you'd expect.


Why hoax?

People trust each other, in the main. If they didn't, society could not function. There are always those, however, who take advantage of this trust. We may think we can tell who is honest and who is not but it isn't so easy.

Most people simply don't see things the way hoaxers do. Hoaxers are usually good at deceiving - it is the tool of their trade! Their targets are, by contrast, often ill-equipped to spot any problem. Many paranormal researchers want to believe in the extraordinary or miraculous. It makes them easy prey for those who want to hoax.

Why should anyone want to hoax a paranormal event? Some people certainly derive some satisfaction out of getting people to believe things that are untrue. Or they may be trying to show how 'gullible' paranormal researchers are. Or they may believe strongly in the paranormal and simply want to 'hurry along' its general acceptance. Or they may desire celebrity, a highly valued prize these days.

For whatever reason people hoax, don't assume they will be easy to spot.