Hoaxes

Debunking Paranormal Videos (That Were Just Viral Ads)

Welcome back. I sure didn’t update much in 2018, except to celebrate the ongoing death of the InfoWars empire.

Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in Austin… near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read…

And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Alex Jones, buy my brain supplements;
Before Obama turns frogs gay!’
Nothing beside remains.

Solemnly presses F.

But we’re snared in an ongoing conspiracy hell, and so the Space Lizard Report must rise with…a post about viral ads people think are evidence of the paranormal.

“It’s a viral ad” is the most tired of suggestions tossed out whenever a paranormal event is recorded, no matter how unlikely (I have fond memories of people accusing Cartoon Network of planting the Montauk Monster corpse). But sometimes it’s true: something created as part of a guerilla ad campaign loses its context, loses its last-second website link or show tease, and is believed by many thousands, even millions of people as evidence of the supernatural. Here are some examples.

WTC UFO

Most popular upload: 449K views; millions across multiple uploads; appeared on Japanese TV show

Real Origin: Sci-Fi Channel ad campaign

Here’s one I covered before. A series of fake ads for the Sci-Fi Channel, Sci-Fi Happens seemed destined to be forgotten…until this one ad from 2000 gained new and horrible significance. Half-remembered viewings fed into the myth, even transforming into a sighting “the day before” the attacks instead of an ad from a full year earlier. It was easy to forget it was an ad; it was easy to assume it had been on Sightings or some other paranormal show, or even on the nascent paranormal internet.

Of course, now that we have the video there’s no excuse.

This Man

Spread as: Internet meme, myth, odd and unexplained cameos in the revived X-Files

Real origin: An ad agency doing…something?

This Man was a creepy myth about a man who appeared in the dreams of man all over the world. What was he? What was he doing? What was his sinister plan?

To be an…art project? Failed film pitch? Who…knows? Crafted by an ad agency. Sure.

“Alien Attacks Police Officer”

Spread As: 660K+ views across popular uploads

Real Origin: Viral ad for The 4400

Oh, The 4400. A good mid-00s sci-fi show on USA, The 4400 focused on 4,400 missing people who returned in a ball of light after years, even decades away. Soon, they discover that many of the 4,400 possess supernatural abilities; and all are back for a reason…

Sadly, The 4400 is a good display of what could be termed the Anti-Lost: that is, the opposite of Lost. The 4400 is that rare show that explained too much: by the end of the six-episode first season, we’ve been told the entire story behind the abductions. The 4400 never became a bad show, except during a stretch where it made a character’s baby grow up in seconds & become an all-powerful demi-god, which, what even, but it never reached the heights of a Lost or even early Heroes.

And so, by the time of The 4400‘s final season, only 8,000 people watched a video called “Promicin Freak Kills Cop”.

…and so it was easy-pickings for someone to strip off the The 4400 promos at the start and end, and turn it into a dubious paranormal video stalwart for years to come.

Source for debunking: IsaacKoi

John Titor, Time Traveler

Spread as: internet meme; urban legend

Real Origin: Ad for a book

Another one I’ve covered previously, the news that John Titor had long been solved – as an ad for a shitty book that no one read – was a tremendous disappointment. Now, let us move on.

English Sewer Alien

Spread as: 1 Million+ views over multiple uploads

Real Origin: April Fool’s Day prank by a utility company

Multiple videos uploaded by United Utilities show an unnerving creature hiding in England’s sewers; they’ve become a mainstay of creepy video compilations ever since.

Of course, they brush past a few facts: the video’s April 1st upload date, or that its creators openly said it was a prank meant to make people think about the real issue of flushing waste down the drain. Oh well.

Teleporting Girl In China

Spread as: 11 million views on most popular upload

Real Origin: ad for a MMO

Another mainstay of bullshit video compilations, here we see it uploaded with an ostentatious Guy Fawkes Mask intro.

The invaluable IsaacKoi also provides the source for this one: after apparently debating if angels exist for several pages, AboveTopSecret noticed a game company’s logo subtly inserted into the video. Then they discovered that the video was straight-up linked on the game’s website. Whoops.

 

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Distant Encounters: Canada’s Most Mysterious UFO

Nessie, Area 51, Roswell: names like this define UFO and paranormal lore. This is not a series about them. In Distant Encounters, we tour the strangest, most isolated tales of encounters with the unknown.

August 18th, 1991. West Carleton, Ontario – a rural farming community. Diane Labenek hears the barks of distant dogs across the field. She rises, looks out the window, and one of my favorite UFO cases of all time begins.

Labenek sees fire and lights: red flames and smoke. A UFO flies towards the bright fire. As Labenek watches,  the UFO departs. Ten minutes later, a helicopter flies overhead. She tells no one but her family.

This isn’t the first strange event to happen in West Carleton: in 1989, Labenek and many others report an “intense, bright light” passing overhead towards a nearby swamp, pursued by helicopters. But neither event draws much attention: with Labenek keeping the story to herself, it’s just another UFO sighting, a lone report without any proof to back it up.

The following year, proof arrived.

Six months later, UFO researcher Bob Oechsler received a package from someone identified only as “Guardian”. The anonymous present included a VHS tape and many crudely forged documents and photos of aliens. In short, most of what Guardian sent was easily dismissable bullshit: but the VHS tape proved harder to dismiss.

The tape corroborates Labenek’s 1991 sighting almost exactly, down to the barking dogs in the background. Seemingly filmed from the other side of the field, you can see the flares in the field, and the shining lights of a large, distinct UFO. Oechsler, who didn’t know about Labenek’s sighting, couldn’t have known that this wasn’t Guardian’s first enigmatic message.

After the 1989 sighting, researcher Tom Theofanous of the Canadian UFO Research Network received a package from Guardian alleging a UFO crash near West Carleton. With nothing but photo-copied photos of fake aliens as “proof”, researchers who toured West Carleton discovered little else, bar reports of a strange lights from a local couple, a rancher – and Diane Labenek. They safely classified Guardian’s first message as a hoax.

In 1992, researchers weren’t so willing to dismiss Guardian. Oeschler and Graham Lightfoot visited West Carleton and, along the way, Labenek. Having no knowledge of her story, they were stunned to discover that it matched the video nearly exactly. Perhaps this would be a rarity – a UFO case with genuine proof?

Yet the investigation was far from smooth. According to MUFON Ontario, Oeschler’s inexperience showed:

[Oechsler] pointed to vegetation that had “been treated with microwave radiation”! How did he come to that conclusion without using any instruments?

“It’s very dry and brittle, so it’s obviously been irradiated” Oechsler said.

The ‘irradiated’ plants were Juniper bushes that always look that way after a Canadian winter – bleached, dried and flattened by heavy snow, probably in much the same way as in Maryland, Oechsler’s home-state.

Some residents of West Carleton, apparently unaware of the threat posed by the alien-irradiated juniper bushes in their midst, took note of an unusually high number of helicopters flying overhead – black, green, and maroon helicopters, with tinted windows for that paranoid-90s flair.

Seeking to “flush out Guardian” – a purely selfless motive I absolutely believe – Oeschler managed to wrangle a story about the case on Unsolved Mysteries. Before their investigation was even complete, it also managed to make an appearance on Sightings, winning the prestigious dubious-90s-paranormal-show double. The investigation also drew in Bruce Maccabee, the famed MUFON researcher who would later think a mouse light in a room was a UFO.

By 1993, researchers had concluded that the Guardian case was likely a hoax. With everything else in the package a proven forgery, why not the video? Claims that it was too large, and too silent to be faked weren’t terribly convincing. Guardian went from one of the most exciting UFO cases in history to an embarrassment UFOologists would rather leave behind them. In 1994, Oeschler, the researcher who drove the case from the beginning retired from UFOology.

Guardian is a strange, beautiful mess. The VHS-quality video is oddly mesmerizing, with its blurred lights in the darkness. The tale of its investigation, meanwhile, is a trainwreck. Most probably, the video itself was a hoax, a simple case of lights on a truck. But there’s something so magically X-Files-y about the idea of an enigmatic, anonymous source leaking proof of UFOs to intrepid researchers, of a person keeping a strange event to themselves for fear of ridicule only to receive proof their experience was valid. Guardian burnt bright and it burnt fast. Among the shadowy-conspiracy genre of UFO sighting, Guardian is maybe the most archetypal one there is.

As for Guardian, their identity was never found.

Biblioteca Pléyades, a sprawling library of the paranormal and strange, has a in-depth article about the Guardian case that you really should read.

Oddity of the Day: The Beatles Never Broke Up

BeatlesIn the immortal words of Jerry O’Connell, imagine if you could travel to parallel worlds. The same year, the same Earth, but everything else is different. Imagine a world where the Soviets rule America, or where ketchup is purple and the Beatles still exist.

Such a story was told by a man calling himself James Richards, who launched a website in 2009 detailing his journey into a parallel world – and he brought back evidence of his bizarre trip. (more…)

The Disappointing Truth About John Titor, Internet Time Traveler

"Titor insignia" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Titor_insignia.jpg#/media/File:Titor_insignia.jpg

The logo of Titor’s military unit, according to him.

After many years of hoaxes, it’s finally October 21st, 2015 – the day Marty McFly went to in Back to the Future 2. Alas, Robert Zemeckis’ vision of a world of hoverboards and the Chicago Cubs knowing success was undone by aerodynamics and the New York Mets.

On this occasion, let’s remember another time traveler, who predicted nothing correctly and vanished, as is the norm with time travelers.

Others have done a good job of recounting who John Titor was. From 2000 to 2001, a man calling himself John Titor posted on time travel- and Art Bell-related message boards claiming to be a traveler from the year 2036, a soldier sent back in time to recover a certain computer in 1975. He stopped in 2000 to visit family and retrieve pictures lost in a second American civil war…and answer questions on a message board, apparently.

A photo of John Titor's time machine; if there was a higher-resolution version, it's gone now.

A photo of John Titor’s time machine; if there was a higher-resolution version, it’s gone now.

Though it’d be tempting to write off Titor as a mere hoaxer, he did have some level of technical knowledge. His mission was trying to avert UNIX’s Year 2038 problem, which is a genuine issue in computer science. This may explain why some were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, though I’ve heard most people were skeptical from the start.

John Titor told us about life in his time and accordingly left many predictions about the future. Let’s take a look at some of them (drawn mainly from http://www.johntitor.com/):

A world war in 2015 killed nearly three billion people.

Hopefully not true, but there are a few more months left for World War III to break out.

No, the ice caps are not melting any faster than they are now.

False. The ice caps are melting faster than ever.

There is a civil war in the United States that starts in 2005. That conflict flares up and down for 10 years. In 2015, Russia launches a nuclear strike against the major cities in the United States (which is the “other side” of the civil war from my perspective), China and Europe. The United States counter attacks. The US cities are destroyed along with the AFE (American Federal Empire)…thus we (in the country) won. The European Union and China were also destroyed. Russia is now our largest trading partner and the Capitol of the US was moved to Omaha Nebraska.

False.

Hats are more common in the future and flashy colors are less common. Dress is much more functional and we “dress up” whenever we get a chance.

Everyone in the future wears hats. Fedoras make a comeback! But I can’t tell you anymore or I’d risk a paradox, m’spacetimecontinuum.

Perhaps I should let you all in on a little secret. No one likes you in the future. This time period is looked at as being full of lazy, self-centered, civically ignorant sheep. Perhaps you should be less concerned about me and more concerned about that.

The future: full of Redditors!

…Entertainment is less centralized. There are “movies” and “TV” but everything is distributed over the net and more people produce their own “shows”.

Not inaccurate, but even in the 90s people could see the internet effecting entertainment in this way.

Wavering western support for Israel is what gives Israel’s neighbors the confidence to attack.

Incorrect! Western support of Israel, or at least American support of Israel, is still high, and it remains undestroyed.

As a result of the many conflicts, no, there were no official Olympics after 2004. However, it appears they may be revived in 2040.

A cutaway of John Titor's supposed time machine.

A cutaway of John Titor’s supposed time machine.

Wrong! Further Olympics have occurred every two years, and hosts are sorted through the next decade. Not even mounting expenses and hosting the Winter Olympics in Beijing can kill it off.

The year 2008 was a general date by which time everyone will realize the world they thought they were living in was over.

Going off their e-mail forwards and Facebook posts, our racist uncles sure thought the world ended in 2008. But this is so vague you can’t possibly judge it false or true.

I would describe it as having a Waco type event every month that steadily gets worse.

I don’t remember a massive siege, or terrorist attack, or weird cult suicide happening every month in 2008. Just your run-of-the-mill mass shootings.

The conflict will consume everyone in the US by 2012 and end in 2015 with a very short WWIII.

Again, no civil war started in 2005, and though WWIII technically could start this year it wouldn’t spring from some divided America’s strife with Russia or China.

John Titor is remembered fondly as one of the web’s strangest mysteries. At least that’s how most people remember him. That’s how I remember him. What I didn’t know until today was that the mystery had been solved long ago – and the truth was disappointing.

Allegedly, a lawyer named Lawrence Haber and his brother were behind the whole thing; that explains Titor’s knowledge of obscure computer problems. As Keith Veronese notes in their io9 article, there’s a chance that someone else was behind the first messages (a series of faxes to Art Bell in 1999). However, much like beloved Russian internet horse horse_ebooks, the basis for John Titor was apparently commercial – in 2003, the John Titor foundation was registered, and they quietly released a book based on the story that year. With the book long-since out-of-print, John Titor has survived as a bizarre internet legend, the tale of a time traveler who stopped by some message boards to do an AMA, one of many strange stories from the wild late-90s/early 00s internet, up there with eBay’s haunted painting and Time Cube.

Other Memetic Time Travelers Who Aren’t Real

Rudolph Fentz, the 19th-century man struck by a car in 1950s New York City, is from a Jack Finney story, which became a real urban legend for some reason; the man from Taured, who vanished from a Tokyo airport, is also from a story, though from a more obscure source than the Fentz tale. That hipster at the bridge opening was wearing an era-appropriate Montreal Maroons sweater, and that woman walking by the premiere of The Circus was just using a hearing aid. And I’m pretty sure the former drummer of Iron Butterfly wasn’t about to crack the code of time travel, either.

Other internet oddities: Weird Wisconsin; “Crowd Demons”, the Lawton Triangle of 2002.

Throwback Thursday: The Lawton Triangle of 2002

George Filer, a retired Major and Eastern Region Director for the Mutual UFO Network, compiles UFO events every week. In April 2002, he published a report of a UFO in Oklahoma:

LAWTON – Investigator Jim Hickman reports on the Flying Triangle-MUFON Case #1-774 that took place on March 11, 2002. Jim received a sighting report from “Joe W.” taken near Lawton with a fairly strange photo attached. Dr. Bruce Maccabee, agreed to conduct the photo analysis and asks what could this craft have been? It certainly doesn’t seem to be any military device or any type of object normally in the sky. Internally lighted blimps seem like very strange objects at night, but they have a distinctive shape. (There was a rash of blimp sightings and videos back in the early 1990s, so we have video “data” on the types of images they make…nothing like this.) Hence, unless someone has a better idea, I would have to classify this as a True UFO (TRUFO), which might be some sort of Alien Flying Craft (AFC) (or two such craft)?

All evidence pointed towards the Lawton Triangle being a true UFO, probably an alien flying his craft over the skies of Oklahoma. Or at least that was the conclusion of MUFON’s esteemed investigators when they saw this image:

What solid proof! Look at that strangely familiar red light, floating around in a void that provides absolutely no frame of reference, so judging its distance and size is impossible. You can read the full “report” here.

In May 2002, Filer’s Files published another report of the same event.

FORT SILL — Jim Hickman reports that on May 20, 2002, “TJ” was out on the Quanah Range on Fort Sill earlier tonight, and saw the strangest objects in the sky that he ever saw! TJ reports, “The nature of my job requires that I carry a camera in my vehicle for documenting accidents and incidents on Fort Sill training areas, so I was able to get a picture of the objects.” When I got home, I started searching the web trying to figure out who I should report this to, since I’m definitely NOT going to report this to the military authorities. If I did I’d probably end my career real fast. When I came across your website I almost fell out of my chair! The Lawton Triangle picture is almost exactly like the objects I saw, and Lawton is just south of Fort Sill where I saw these objects! Is this bizarre or what? TJ continues, “I was looking west when I first spotted the objects low to the ground behind some tall trees.” At first I thought they were the lights from military vehicles. “Then suddenly these lights shot straight up in the sky and just hovered for a minute or so.” I just sat there dumbfounded for a moment when it suddenly dawned on me that I should take a picture.

MUFON’s Dr Bruce Maccabee’s comments on the new photo: “WOW! Got to pull out all the stops on this one! A rare event, two photos of the same (apparently) thing! The numbers of lights at the corners may agree (do agree at two corners) and the shape of the red “car” is as I had predicted (the left and right outlines of the “car” in the Lawton photo would be the actual shapes of the left and right sides of the red UFO image if photographed without camera smear).”

If there are two similar pictures of this event – well, that’s some proof. We have to conclude that there are UFOs over Lawton, Oklahoma because –

So where these images “True UFOs” or “Alien Flying Craft” of some sort? No… In reality these pictures were nothing more than a picture of Microsoft Optical Mouse taken with the room lights and camera flash turned off!

IT WAS A MOUSE

THEY CONCLUDED A GLOWING MOUSE IN A DARK ROOM WAS A “TRUE UFO”

These weren’t some random people. One was a “regional director” for MUFON. Another investigator mentioned, Bruce Maccabee, is a well-known UFOlogist and former physicist. MUFON has its own TV show, called Hangar 1. It claims to reveal stories from their “UFO files”. THESE ARE THEIR FILES. We’re literally reading MUFON’s files, and they conclude that a mouse in a dark room is a “true UFO”.

Jim Hickman, who investigated the second sighting, planned to go on a radio show in September 2003 to explain how he “uncovered” the hoax. When the hoaxer called in to say that they revealed it themselves and Hickman didn’t expose anything, Hickman mysteriously failed to show for his interview. Apparently, it wasn’t the first time he failed to show. You can download the audio clips off the hoaxer’s page, and the radio host wonders why he was given a second chance.

In 2002, a man fooled UFOlogy’s Top Minds. And it didn’t take much: just a mouse hanging off a chair in a dark room.

Via Museum of Hoaxes.