The days of grainy 8 mm films of UFOs, Bigfoot and lake monsters are long gone. As video editing software has become and continues to become more advanced and user-friendly, high-quality hoax videos are ever-easier to make. Upload those videos to the Internet and they'll zip around the world, thanks in part to a public audience that is still willing to set aside logic when it comes to paranormal activity.
Here's our list of the best or worst videos that have gone viral recently, all of which claim to show paranormal phenomena ranging from UFOs to body magnetism to poltergeists. We'll also explain how to tell they're fakes.
Dead little green man
A UFO crash video titled "Dead Alien Found in UFO Hotspot in Russia" was posted to YouTube earlier this month. It shows two Russian men finding what appears to be a dead extraterrestrial alien near a tree stump in a snowy field in Irkutsk, Siberia.
Several elements in the video point to it being a hoax. First, the "little green man" looks a little too much like a Hollywood depiction of an alien. Furthermore, where's the creature's spacecraft? A spacecraft would be harder to fabricate than a dead alien body. Finally, the videographers can be heard laughing rather than seriously discussing a remarkable find. It was later revealed that two teenagers had made the body from old bread and chicken skin.
Ghost in the closet
This viral video, shot by Lisa Manning in her house in Coventry, England, allegedly shows a closet door opening of its own accord and a chair sliding Ouija-board style across the floor. The footage appeared on Independent Television News (ITN), with a voiceover asking, "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. 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 several extraordinary claims the Mannings made to the media: 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.
What's more, 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.
The poltergeist video is very weak indeed though if its purpose was to give the Manning family some publicity, it succeeded. [Read Our In-Depth Analysis ]
Magnetism vs. stickiness
Bogdan, a 7-year-old Serbian boy, made international news in March 2011 through his apparent ability to magnetically attract metal objects. He fooled an MSNBC reporter. He fooled the Daily Mail. But he could not fool us here at Life's Little Mysteries.
YouTube is chock full of similar demonstrations of bodily magnetism. But unfortunately for paranormal enthusiasts, they're all hoaxes. Bogdan, like the others, has to lean back slightly in order for objects to stick to him. If the force at play were magnetic, it would overcome the much weaker force of gravity.
Furthermore, glass plates and a plastic remote control, as well as metal objects, stick to Bogdan's chest. Glass and plastic aren't magnetic, but they are smooth. According to scientists, smooth objects stick to slightly greasy, flabby skin much like Bogdan's. [Read Our In-Depth Analysis ]
Hoax in the Holy Land
In February, videos surfaced online that supposedly showed a UFO hovering over an Islamic shrine known as the Dome of the Rock on Jerusalem's Temple Mount in the pre-dawn hours of Jan. 28. The videos sparked a furious debate about whether we finally have evidence of UFOs.
However, there are several indicators that the videos are fakes. First, they were posted anonymously usually a red flag that something's bogus, as there are very few legitimate reasons why a genuine witness would not want to be identified, especially given the chance to sell their story to a major media outlet.
Second, not only do we not know who took the footage, but no one other than the videographers reported having seen the lights, despite there being well over a million people in Jerusalem at any given time, and the Dome of the Rock being one of the most famous religious sites in the world.
Third, the bright UFO light in the video does not seem to reflect off the Dome of the Rock, suggesting it was digitally inserted into the video. The footage shows clear signs of having been edited by video processing software called Motion Tile, used to introduce camera shake into it. This suggests other edits were made also. [Read Our In-Depth Analysis ]
Insect or ET?
Recently released footage recorded in 2010 at an Air Force Base in Chile has been touted as some of the best evidence ever that UFOs have visited Earth. The footage, which shows a roundish black object seeming to chase a group of fighter jets flying in formation, led experts with the Chilean government's Committee for the Study of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena to conclude that the jets were being stalked by a UFO.
Not so fast. Further analysis of the footage clearly shows the "UFO" flying up from the foreground in front of nearby hills. It seems that whatever it is whether extraterrestrial spacecraft or very terrestrial insect the UFO began its journey into the skies above the El Bosque Air Base from approximately knee height, and probably took off from less than 20 feet in front of the cameraman. [Read our in-depth analysis]
In 1995, a grainy, black-and-white film surfaced that had supposedly been shot by the military shortly after the Roswell incident in 1947. It shows a post-mortem dissection of an alien body, and was touted as evidence of what some UFO buffs had claimed all along: that alien bodies had been recovered from the Roswell crash site by the U.S. government.
Soon after the alien autopsy footage was broadcast on Fox television, serious doubts were raised about its authenticity. Skeptics (and even many UFO researchers) branded the film a hoax, pointing out anachronisms and inconsistencies in the film. In 2006, the special effects artist who created the alien body shown in the video confessed that it was in fact an elaborate hoax. [Read More Alien Encounter Debunkings]
In December, NASA footage of a burst of electrically charged material shooting out from the sun had UFO enthusiasts aflutter. They said the "coronal mass ejection," as such solar activity is called, unveiled a giant, "cloaked" spaceship parked near the planet Mercury. The formerly invisible object glows brightly as the CME material washes over it.
Solar physicists at the Naval Research Laboratory provided an alternative explanation: The bright spot that glows in the light of the CME is where the planet was on the previous day. It's merely an image artifact introduced by the fact that the scientists use footage of the region of space from the previous day to remove background light from their footage of CME events. [Read our in-depth analysis]
In September 2011, a Guatemalan news channel reported the birth of a misshapen pig, which had a face that looks more human than swine. The night before the pig's birth, villagers say they witnessed unexplained bright lights hovering in the sky, and so they attributed the piglet's bizarre features to foul play by aliens.
A pig geneticist told Life's Little Mysteries that the notion of an alien-pig hybrid was ridiculous. One to two percent of pigs are born with developmental defects, and the unfortunate piglet in the video appears to suffer from hydrocephalus, or skull swelling caused by the buildup of fluid inside the cranium. It also has a snout defect. [Read our in-depth analysis]
Mothership over London
A viral video from July 2011 purported to show a "mothership" and at least three separate smaller alien spacecraft filmed in the skies over London. In the footage, a large, glowing white oval moves in and out from behind clouds before zooming away, and three smaller white dots also make an appearance. Some UFO believers asserted that an appearance over London is a high-profile statement that aliens are here.
But the video has several signs of being a hoax. The mothership and its UFO siblings are among the easiest images to fake: glowing ovals and dots. There's no detail, no flying saucer windows or aliens waving hello from high above. Just white moving dots that anyone with some video-editing chops could create with little effort.
Another sign of fakery is the way the video progresses. The cameraman is apparently randomly videotaping a mundane sidewalk, and then moves quickly to a street corner, where he takes careful note of the reactions from passerby before aiming the camera up into the sky at the objects that are captivating their attention. He videotapes the skies for about a minute, then once again focuses on the small crowd of people who are staring up into the sky. This is highly suspicious cinematography for someone who truly believes that there are alien spacecraft above that could reappear at any moment. [Read our in-depth analysis]
Blurry bear costume
A North Carolina man named Thomas Byers posted this video to Youtube in late March. While driving down a country road, he and a friend allegedly saw the elusive human-ape creature known as Bigfoot , which many people claim lives in our midst. Byers jumped out of his truck, got out his video camera and filmed the creature crossing the road. His footage made its way onto Fox News, MSNBC, the LA Times, and Huffington Post, among other places, despite the fact that it's just about the blurriest, worst-made bogus video imaginable.
First of all, Bigfoot clearly looks like a man in a bear suit. Secondly, we viewers are left to wonder how long it took Byers to notice the creature, slow down, pull over to the side of the road, get out, walk in front of his truck, turn on his video camera, and start filming. Most Bigfoot reports claim that the animal moves quickly (if it moved slowly we'd expect to see more videos of it), but this one does not seem to be in much of a hurry, and almost looks like the mythical creature is waving as it wanders into the woods. [Read Our In-Depth Analysis]