As we discussed in the show, while in Vegas last week we decided to take the haunted bus tour. We were promised the most haunted locations in Las Vegas as well as compelling evidence for the existence of ghosts. What we got was a tour of places in Vegas where bad things happened and photographs with orbs and flashback. Overall it was pretty lame, but it was a little fun going with a bunch of skeptics.
Our tour guide was an interesting character. I got the vibe from him that this was just a gig – he was “cast” in the part because of his looks. He claimed to have been a mortician, but that was probably just part of his persona.
He claimed that he did not really believe in ghosts until he started seeing all the pictures of orbs and “ectoplasm” taken by the people on the tour. Apparently that was the compelling evidence we were promised. When we tried to engage with him gently on a couple of points, his response was “I don’t know, I’m just a tour guide,” – not the response of a believer.
At the beginning of the tour we were all given dowsing rods – these were for dowsing for ectoplasm, or ghost energy. We were informed that if the rods move to the left, that means there is ghost energy; to the right – energy, if they cross then that is also energy, an if only one moves that is (you guessed it) more energy. Of course, it was nearly impossible to keep the rods from moving for any length of time, unless you locked them in place by squeezing them or placing your thumb on top, which we were instructed not to do.
Bob tried his luck dowsing for water, and was very successful (he even did it with his eyes closed).
When we arrived at a park where an 11 year old boy was struck by a car and killed, we were told to get out our dowsing rods and start searching for energy. Evan, who is as much an expert in dowsing as anyone, was the first to find something, although he informed us that he was dowsing for concrete.
Alas, we were unable to locate the promised spirits in the park – no free-floating phantasms, no mysterious figures who suddenly disappear, not even a lonely orb. I think the problem was that there was nothing to provide for orbs or flashback.
Orbs are circular globes of light that appear on pictures, although were not visible when the picture was taken. They are typically caused by motes of dust refracting light. The park was not terribly dusty. There is also a phenomenon known as lens flare, which creates concentric rings extending from a light source – often used for artistic effect in photographs and cinematography.
When taking photographs in a dark environment using a flash, a foreground object can cause flashback, overexposing the film or sensor causing a blotchy light areas. The random blobs of light, usually amorphous, sometimes stringy, create the perfect raw material for pareidolia. Our brains try to find patterns in the randomness, and if you want to see ghosts, you are very likely to find them.
Bob managed to capture an excellent example of flashback. This was taken at the Flamingo near a monument to Bugsy Siegel, and close to where he was murdered. You can see the free-floating “ectoplasm” just to the right of the palm tree. This blob looks like a head, facing to the right. The nose is the most striking feature. I thought is looked like a bald head – like a member of the Blue Man group.
By the end of the tour we were all sleeping in the back of the bus – partly due to the fact that were were still on East Coast time, so it was about 3AM biological time for us. The tour was less than riveting, although we did have some fun with it. We didn’t see any ghosts, or any compelling evidence. We were treated to ghost stories and photographic artifact only. But we still got to see some of the more tragic side of Vegas.