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With Halloween rapidly approaching, reports of paranormal sightings will start to escalate as people get into the spirit of the spooky holiday. While most are obvious hoaxes, there are a few reported by people who genuinely believe they have encountered a ghost or spirit. It is these perceptions that professional skeptic Benjamin Radford spends his time investigating and resolving, with logical explanations - so far, he has not failed!
The 44-year-old New Mexico resident who uses journalistic reporting, critical thinking skills and a thorough "scientific process" to debunk the ghost sightings, decided to get into this unusual profession after reading about James Randi, a former magician turned paranormal investigator who helped found the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry in 1976.
The ghostbuster who has been doing this for 18 years, says he receives an average of half-a-dozen requests a month from people wanting to hire him to investigate things ranging from haunted houses to crop circles to lake monsters and even the presence of Sasquach or Bigfoot. Radford says he likes cases where he has either a photo or video to work with. This allows him to examine the evidence carefully and get to the bottom of the mystery.
Over the years, he has encountered hundreds of interesting sightings. The most recent one that he resolved in late September, involved a clip from a surveillance video at a police station in Espanola, New Mexico. The footage showed what appeared to be blurry human-shaped figure walking across a parking lot and then through a locked area of the fence. The police officer who noticed it, initially thought it was just an insect. However upon closer examination he decided it was something more sinister. Scared, he showed it to the other officers and the video soon became a viral sensation and newsworthy enough to be shown on the network television show "Good Morning America".
Turns out that the officer's original hunch had been right - the 'ghost' was just a bug or insect walking across the camera. Radford said that the first clue was that it had legs - not two, but six or eight. He could tell this by the smooth movement of the mystery object, which indicated that its weight was being distributed upon more than two legs.
Then there was the fact that it cast no shadow as it scampered across the parking lot. According to the expert, that is because the insect was not in the parking lot but on the cameral lens. The final nail in the coffin? Radford had investigated an almost identical case at a nearby police station in 2007 and had been able to prove beyond doubt, that the scuttling figure had been just some ladybugs making their way across the camera lens.
While that one was relatively simple to solve, it took him five years to get to the bottom of the urban legend of Chupacabra - the goat-blood sucking vampire-dog. First sighted in Puerto Rico in 1995, the dogs were later reported to have been seen all the way from Maine to Chile, Russia to the Philippines. After some painstaking investigation that involved DNA testing on the carcass of the alleged monster that had been found in Texas, Radford was able to definitively conclude that no such animal existed and that the goats were being slaughtered by either dogs or coyotes.
Radford says that what he does is not rocket science and believes that most people could easily solve their own mysteries. The only reason they are unable to, is either because they don't take the time to examine the evidence carefully or because they really want to believe in the existence of supernatural beings.
Resources: fastcompany.com, discovery.com