It's been a big month for weird videos. Last week, a super-blurry video of an alleged Bigfoot in North Carolina was released. Now a family in Coventry, England has released video footage of what they claim is poltergeist activity inside their house. But it's doubtful that the so-called "poltergeist" is real.
Lisa Manning told reporters that she and her two children first noticed odd things happening around the house a few weeks ago, such as "chairs flying across the room and crashing into walls," and cupboard doors that "banged open and shut before being ripped off their hinges."
The video, which runs just under a minute, appears to show a bedroom closet door opening on its own. About 10 seconds later, a small pink chair slides backward toward the closet and a pile of stuff on the floor. The video is being touted by some as evidence of the paranormal and has gone viral, leaving hundreds of thousands of people around the world wondering what it is.
The video appeared on Independent Television News (ITN), with a voiceover asking, "A cupboard door mysteriously opens of its own accord... Is someone behind it, playing tricks? Is this family being visited by a poltergeist? Very spooky!"
Spooky is one word that could be used to describe the video; hokey is another, depending on your perspective. I have researched hundreds of photographs and videotapes supposedly depicting mysterious or paranormal phenomenon, and I investigated a very similar "ghost video" of a supposedly haunted California warehouse in 2009 for the TV show "MysteryQuest." In that case, a security camera recorded an office chair mysteriously swiveling around on its own after all the employees had supposedly gone home. After research and experiments, I determined that it was in fact a prankster having some fun. The new Coventry poltergeist video shares many of the same hoax signatures.
For one thing, both of the objects that move are fairly lightweight and could easily have been pulled by someone off-camera with a fishing line. Also, the video does not depict any of the Mannings’ extraordinary claims: the chair does not "fly across the room and crash into walls," but merely scoots a few feet. The door does not "bang open and shut before being ripped off [its] hinges," but instead opens slowly and gently.
Furthermore, the video has clearly been edited, and does not show one continuous mysterious event but instead two or more scenes that may or may not have occurred together. Without seeing the original, unedited videotape, it's impossible to know what the camera might have captured that was not presented.
A British TV psychic named Derek Acorah visited the family, and after claiming to communicate with the ghost, concluded that he had identified both the name of the ghost and its temperament. According to Acorah, the invisible entity is (or was, depending on how you look at it) named Jim, who is "very, very angry" for unspecified reasons — so angry, in fact, that it decided to scoot a chair a few feet. Acorah then reportedly performed a cleansing ritual that banished Jim from harassing the family again. The poltergeist video (if not the whole phenomenon) seems a likely hoax — though if Jim's purpose was to give Acorah and the family some publicity, he succeeded.
This article was provided by Life’s Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.com. Benjamin Radford is managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer science magazine and author of Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries. His website is www.RadfordBooks.com.