This past weekend I went to my first Horror Industry Convention. Now Stop giggling. This isn’t like a Geeky Sci-Fi convention where people go worship Captain Kirk or the Daleks and buy collectibles. I’ve done my share of those conventions but this convention was different. There’s a handful of annual conventions like this and they’re designed for high-end professional geeks
Not only can you buy or order professional quality props at these conventions but most of the time is actually spent in seminars learning every conceivable aspect of the haunt business from prop building to acting to marketing to how to splatter blood properly. The guys giving the seminars are generally haunt veterans, some with 20 or 30 years experience.
I actually got recognized at one of the seminars, kind of. A couple came up to me after a seminar and asked if I was Jay. Turns out Jason and his lovely wife are fans of the podcast and recognized my voice when I asked a question during the seminar. Many people confuse Jay and I so I wasn’t surprised. It’s funny to read comments on the boards and to see people attribute comments I made to Jay or vice versa.
I have noticed a disturbing trend in the Haunt convention industry though including the one Haunt industry podcast in existence, Rotting Flesh Radio. This trend involves a small but increasing involvement of the paranormal. Many of the big conventions offer day long tours of local professional haunts. These tours aren’t cheap but it offers haunters a chance to see other haunted houses; something we rarely have time for in October when we’re busy with our own haunts.
Recently though I’ve noticed that tacked onto these tours, conventions have been adding stops at local venues that are “really” haunted. Not with fake ghosts and monsters but, supposedly, with the real deal. The convention I was at also actually had a seminar devoted to the paranormal and ghost detection. Now I guess I can see why this is happening. The connection is obvious but it’s so galling to me. I was too busy to go to one of the seminars but later at night I decided to try the free ghost tour that was offered in the restaurant conveniently attached to the convention hotel.
Unfortunately, there were a few things about the tour that were not conducive to an ideal scenario. It was 2 in the morning after a very long day. I didn’t have a recorder with me. I didn’t take notes. And I had recently consumed 4 rum and cokes. Four drinks might not sound like much to some. For Rebecca it’s probably like a tablespoon of cough medicine. Since I drink infrequently, I was feeling little pain.
The people who run the tour are members of S.P.R.I or The Society for Paranormal Research and Investigation. How many different acronyms are there for these paranormal societies? Anywho…they claim that they try to be scientific in their investigations. I saw some evidence that they try to do this but when push came to shove real science gets short shrift.
The first room we entered was a dining room that had an infrared camcorder on a tripod in it. The host for this room mentioned that orbs are seen a lot but the vast majority are reflections off dust particles. He even hit the top of a nearby flat surface and you can see them go flying around through the camcorder. I asked how they distinguished a dust globule from a paranormal one. He said it’s a real ghost-globule if it can sustain its illumination beyond the point where it could be caused by light reflection. I said that if you see a globule in this way then by definition, there must be light in the room which could then find a way to reflect off of the dust.
The second room had 4 cameras mounted on the walls and a computer monitor displaying all 4 camera views. This room had the loopiest SPRI member but my memory is too hazy to comment with much confidence. I do remember her saying that she was a “sensitive” and that she sometimes uses dowsing in her investigations. She even brought out two wires and asked a question which “caused” them to move towards one another as an answer. I couldn’t bring myself to mention anything about the ideomotor effect. I didn’t want to prolong my time in that room.
Room3 was the computer room with a couple of desks and computers. One of the SPRI members, I think his name was Tom, showed us an EMF meter for detecting electric and magnetic fields. He showed how it worked and even acknowledged that it picks up all the electronic equipment in the area. This is why this device is so silly on those ghost hunter shows. There’s so much equipment around like cameras, cellphones, even building wire that EMFs are everywhere. They usually aren’t even used properly since many require separate readings in 3 different axes for a proper measurement. See episode #1 of The Skeptologists.
In the course of their presentation, one of the members mentioned that Physics supports the paranormal. I couldn’t let that one go. I said “Oh Yeah?”.
Actually I told her that I strongly disagreed with her statement and that mainstream physicists do not believe that physics supports the paranormal. Before I could elaborate, Tom mentioned something about physics showing how bumblebees can’t fly. I couldn’t believe he used the bumblebee card. I did my best to explain how when bumblebee flight was first calculated, they used equations for static-wing flight like for an airplane. This is not how bees fly. I then said that science later showed that wing rotations cause vortices of low pressure that account nicely for the lift that bees demonstrate.
If I’m remembering correctly, I got blank looks all around.