Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Disillusionment and Evidence? at Oak Alley Plantation

This weekend found Silverfox and myself in the rare position of having both no kids and no plans. The kids were with their respective bio-dads, and we simply had nothing planned, so we decided to do a little ghost hunting/debunking... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Last Wednesday, the Sci-fi Channel aired an episode of Ghost Hunters where the TAPS team went to the Oak Alley plantation in Vachiere, LA. It isn't very often that they do an episode that's in my proverbial backyard, and that I have a decent knowledge of the layout of. As I watched the show, and their "evidence" mounted I found myself thinking that TAPS wasn't doing a very good job of looking for the non-paranormal explanation. In particular, there was one scene where Jason says he sees a flash of light move past the window, I was sure that that window he was looking out faced River Road.

But I wasn't sure... it had been years since the last time I had been there, and I could be wrong. When I asked Silverfox what she thought, I was surprised to find that she had never been there. So, With a full tank of gas and no young'uns we headed up River Road this past weekend with the notion of putting TAPS to the test.

By my list, the evidence presented by TAPS amounted to the following:

1) Moving shadows seen outside the house on the verandas.
2) A thermal hit in the master bedroom.
3) Cold Spots.
4) a flashlight turning on by itself.
5) an Electromagnetic Field spike on the first floor.
6) a "EVP" of a clanking noise.
7) The flash of light seen outside by Jason

While on the way up to the plantation, Silverfox an I talked about the episode, and realized that with the Air Conditioning on in the house, (as evidenced by TAPS own thermal evidence) any unfamiliar draft could be a cold spot, and if the A/C was on, it was generating an EM field intermittently throughout the night. this would easily explain 3 and 5... possibly number 6 as well. (the thermostat in our house makes an audible click when it kicks on) #2 was probably a reflection of one of the investigators against the thick glass in that room. We would concentrate on the shadows, the flash of light, and the flashlight.

Silverfox and I arrived at Oak Alley around 4pm. We decided to do the tour because she had never done it before, and we were hoping it would give us a chance to hear some of the stories for ourselves. We waited in the shade of the house while waiting for it to start, and Silverfox started taking some pictures...

I love this next Picture... Silverfox calls it "Big Tree, Little Rob":
One thing that struck me as we were waiting for the tour that I had not remembered from my previous visits is that a few of the trees practically brush the house.
Could the local wildlife be responsible for the movement TAPS saw on the Verandas? Definitely a possibility. There are also smaller trees just beyond the veranda on the east side of the house that could move easily in a breeze. In the darkness, and through the wavy leaded glass of the old house, it could easily be mistaken for something moving on the veranda itself.

As our tour started, the first thing we realized is that the Producers of Ghost Hunters got a lot of their history wrong, and that the tour that the TAPS guys were given left out some of the most interesting parts of the house. (Our guide freely admitted all this... apparently it stuck in her craw a bit.) We were also told that there was no photography allowed in the house, but that didn't stop Silverfox from snapping pics whenever she had the opportunity. Things of note on our tour:

The plantation owners would have a slave stay up all night to guard the sleeping children from the local wildlife which would come in through the open windows. The wildlife includes opossums, raccoons, and other climbers. Any one of these are curious enough to look in a window...

The floors are a little spongy in the lavender room (where the flashlight incident was) and transfer vibration well. If the flashlight was rigged to light up at the slightest touch (as Grant says it was in this episode) any flexing of the floor would cause it to come on. this would also explain why the light goes off as Jason approaches it.

The room that Jason saw the flash of light in does indeed face River Road, and on a weird enough angle that it would not be immediately obvious that it was the headlights of a southbound vehicle.

One of the rooms TAPS missed was used to hold wakes for the recently dead. Talk about a missed opportunity.

In short, TAPS did some shoddy work on this one, and I was really disappointed... for all the good TAPS has done popularizing the field of paranormal investigations, they seemed to have missed some pretty obvious stuff for ratings. We left feeling that while the plantation may indeed be haunted... the Ghost Hunters had failed to provide any evidence of this.

We however, had better luck.

When I had the chance to review the pictures Silverfox had snapped, I found that my lovely wife had actually captured two anomalies in the master bedroom. Keep in mind, I have not doctored these photos in any way... The first anomaly I spotted in this picture:
There is an unaccounted for blue light in the middle of the picture next to the dress. I've enhanced the area in this photo:It's not a glare or a reflection as near as I can tell, and I threw every filter at it I could think of in Photoshop to try to explain it/eliminate it. I also went back and reviewed her other pictures taken in the room to try to find the source, and to my surprise found a second anomaly in this picture, near the crib:

here is the same photo focused on the area in question:
Again blue, again unexplainable, and almost exactly the same height off the floor. I'm not saying it's a ghost... but it's definitely something.

Cerio Family Paranormal Investigators: 1, TAPS: 0.


RingoWolf said...

Sorry BK, I have to call b*llsh*t on your two "blue lights".

In both pictures you're facing a window glazed with leaded glass. Said window had an ocean of natural light pouring in (notice in the pictures there's a total washout around the window).

Leaded glass (especially old leaded glass) is known to have wavy, in-consistent thickness and imperfections, at lease all the samples of leaded glass I've come in contact with. Personally I think its part of it's charm.

I think what you have here is a classic case of light refraction. Maybe I'm wrong, but I think it causes too much doubt.

Sorry, but I have to be really super critical (and super cynical) since you’ve already labeled me the “True Believer” of the group. For my own credibility sake I can’t go “OOoooo look, a ghost!”

Rob the Webkahunah said...

Let it never be said that I don't respond well to critisism... your thoughts on the photos are valid Ringo, (and I thought of them myself) but they don't hold up for a number of reasons...

1) To be a reflection or refraction, the anomalies would follow the contours of the object it is reflected/refracted upon. upon close examination of the full-sized versions of these photos, I have determined that not to be the case. Also, the fact that the height remains consistant despite being in seperate parts of the room is difficult to explain with the refraction theory.

2) The anomalies don't persist in Silverfoxes other shots of the room, or in shots taken of that room by others. If it was a case of reflection/refraction, they should be consistent through all the images taken in that room.

3) There are filters in Photoshop specifically designed to remove refractive lens flares... these anomalies persist when such filters are used. I also thought it was interesting that the tools in Photoshop used to enhance natural light in photos also had no effect on these.

Still, I am willing to accept that this may still prove to be a natural, not paranormal phenomenon. You do realize you're just proving why we need you on the team, right?