Yet another new “ghost” show has debuted on the Travel Channel: Ghosts of Morgan City, which takes place in Morgan City, Louisiana, and stars local paranormal investigator Jereme Leonard, former FBI agent Ben Hansen, and psychic medium Sarah Lemos. The show is produced by MAK Productions, the same company that produces Ghosts of Shepherdstown and follows the same cookie-cutter routine of awkward acting, sensationalized recreations (sometimes with cheesy effects), baseless assumptions, and little if any investigation of the claims.
The show recently caused some internet buzz among the paranormal community with the third episode of the series, titled “Blue Shirt of Idlewild.” During their overnight investigation of the Idlewild plantation, the team apparently captured a figure—immediately deemed a ghost, of course—walking past a doorway between rooms via their surveillance cameras. The figure appears to be wearing a white, ankle-length nightgown, hair up in a bun, and barefoot (or wearing socks). We’re also told that the apparition appears to be carrying a tray, because her arms are outstretched in front of her (oh, and it’s also female). So, is this a ghost? Let’s take a closer look.
One of the first claims by the team is that the figure in the video is transparent. However, this statement is not accurate, as the figure appears solid when walking in front of the dining room table, a chair, and a vase filled with flowers, completely blocking our view of these objects as it walks by. What we do see is some motion blur due to the lack of enough light. Surveillance cameras with night vision have a limit to their effectiveness (effective range), which is usually detailed in the owner’s manual. This can be anywhere from ten feet to one hundred feet, yet this number usually indicates the very edge (limit) of the camera’s visual range with image quality dropping off significantly. Figures moving around will demonstrate motion blur progressively worse the closer a figure is to this range limit. We’ve seen this with other videos such as the Michigan Nanny Cam ghost. What we’re seeing here resembles a person making their way through a dark room. Because this is a ghost hunting show, such logical conclusions are pushed aside, and it is promoted as an apparition.
In a follow-up video posted to the Travel Channel’s Facebook page on July 12, Ben Hansen does his version of a break-down and gives us a little extra footage. First, we are told by Hansen “about forty seconds or so before the ghost walks by, a light goes on in the bedroom to the right, at the same time we see movement of someone or something in the mirror on the left-hand side in the pallor. We see that movement again, and the light goes off.” As he’s describing the events, he’s playing the video footage for us (the viewers), and I noticed three things: One, a split-second after we see the light in the right-side bedroom go on, the video is immediately cropped down to show less than a quarter of the full screen, focusing on the mirror on the left side of the room. This is ostensibly done to focus on the small reflection in the mirror, showing someone moving in the bedroom. However, this effectively prevents us from seeing any shadows (or additional details) that may show up in the rest of the scene caused by the person walking around the bedroom. Because this could be used as a tactic to hide details, it would have been much better if Hansen would have allowed the clip to play out unedited at first, then given us a close-up view.
The second thing I noticed was that during the close-up bit on the mirror, before we see and hear the light turned off (a ceiling pull chain), the video seems to skip. Granted, this may be a glitch in the footage, but there is a sudden change in brightness that looks like it could be an editing skip, such as when a section of video is removed and the two remaining parts are connected. I can’t say for sure without seeing the original, unedited footage, but between this and the cropping of the video, I tend to think we’re not seeing the entire event that was recorded.
The third nagging detail is the lack of time stamps on the video footage. We are told by Hansen that the additional footage is from “about forty seconds” before the “ghost” walks by, but how can we be sure? This also brings up the question of when the footage of the alleged ghost was captured and whether we are sure that no one was in the house at the time. Although it’s not mandatory that camera systems have this information on screen, it really should be in these cases. Footage can be cut and pasted in any order to create whatever situation is wanted. Furthermore, if this were a real ghost it would be beneficial to know what time it went strolling through the house so that the footage might be replicated another night (with better camera placement).
Honestly, the fact that a figure is glimpsed in another room, turning a light on (Do ghosts need light to see?), moving around, then turning the light off before exiting, should plainly tell us—and even mystery-mongering TV ghost hunters—that someone was simply in the house moving around. Sadly, this is not the case, as Ben Hansen continues to insist that the figure is a ghost. So let’s keep going.
In the follow-up video, we learn that a second camera was set up in the den, which is to the right of the dining room (which the ghost walks through), and it caught a little more of the figure. The view from this camera shows the den area with a noticeably brighter area on the right side of the scene. This is troublesome for us, because the left side is much darker, and this is where our ghost will be entering. When the video clip is played, we see the figure come in on the extreme left edge of the camera view after it emerges from the bedroom (where they used the ceiling light). It seems to awkwardly walk toward the next room (dining room), where Hansen states in a voiceover, “notice the figure is transparent.” Once again, this is false, as the figure clearly reflects the little bit of infrared light (from the camera) on that side of the room and shows up against the background. Granted, the video quality is poor, and the figure suffers from the same issue of being at the edge of the infrared light (motion blur), but it is not transparent.
After watching this second angle several times, it appears that the figure bumps into an antique bench on the left side. Listening to the video, one can even hear a noise when the figure makes contact, just like when I bump into furniture on my hardwood floors (hmm, I thought ghosts went through solid objects?). Then the figure reaches out its arms, and this is perceived by Hansen as “it looks like the figure is carrying a tray or something.” I don’t think the figure is carrying anything, because it looks more like the actions of someone putting their hands out in front of them as they navigate through a dark room, especially after just bumping into a bench. It becomes apparent that the figure can’t see well and is simply trying to make its way through the rooms. This is not very ghostlike, if you ask me.
Another thought hit me while going over the footage from the second camera. Hansen doesn’t show us any earlier footage from when the figure turned on the light in the side bedroom (where the figure emerges from). Why not? I suspect this footage contains visuals and audio that would negate the flimsy idea of an apparition. We did get a clear sound from the “ghost” bumping into furniture, so I wonder if there isn’t additional audio that may give us a clue about who was roaming around. Whatever the reason, I find it curious this is never brought up … unless, of course, Hansen doesn’t want us to know what (or who) it is.
In the course of the aired episode and the follow-up video, Hansen attempts to do a recreation using his team member Sarah. What he focuses on is the alleged transparency of the apparition compared to what he calls a “solid reflection” of Sarah when she attempts to recreate the footage. Unfortunately, the recreation doesn’t follow the basic idea of getting all the details as close to the original as possible. For one thing, Sarah is wearing a black jacket-vest, dark red shirt, blue jeans, and black boots. This is obviously different than the light-colored nightgown our mysterious figure was wearing (and who was apparently barefoot). Sarah doesn’t actually walk across the doorway, replicating what the “ghost” did; rather, Sarah steps out much more slowly and stops less than halfway through the path of travel. They should have put someone in a similar colored dress (there was one hanging on a door in another room to the left of the pallor) and had them walk the entire path in view of both cameras, just like the figure did.
Hansen estimates the height of the “ghost” to be approximately five-feet two-inches based on comparing the figure to known objects; he uses a picture frame in the background of the dining room as an example. Hansen doesn’t explain the details of his method, but the use of the picture frame, which is most likely over six feet from where the figure actually stood, would not be the best choice. In order to calculate the height of an object like this, known objects are indeed helpful—the closer the better. The picture frame is on the opposite side of the room over six feet away, while the “ghost” had walked right next to the doors separating the dining room from the parlor. Measuring the height from a still frame (especially from poor resolution) is not an exact science and can only provide an estimation. The five-foot two-inch guess, based on an object that wasn’t next to the figure, could easily be off by a few inches.
Because I had already invested time in this investigation, I continued to watch the entire episode. This was mostly to get a better look at various rooms/furniture and other crew members who get caught on the wrong side of the camera, but there was one more item I wanted to address. After the video of the alleged “apparition,” the crew set up in the room where it was seen and proceeded to ask questions of the ghost. The idea here is that in response, a ghost will manipulate one or more of the standard (and useless) ghost hunting devices the team had set up around the room. One of the devices in use was a Tri-Field meter, Model 100XE, which Hansen was holding in his hand. This particular model measures the strength of all three types of electromagnetic fields: AC magnetic field, AC electric field, and radio – including microwaves. At one point, the needle spikes all the way to the right, briefly pinning the needle. This animates the (off camera) producer, which in turn gets the rest of the crew excited.
For most of this segment, Hansen’s thumb is covering the selection dial. However, in one close-up view, we see that the device is set on “Magnetic 0-3” (mG), a very low scale setting when compared to the 1-100 mG setting (top scale of display). By keeping it on the lower scale, this allows for easy manipulation, such as from a two-way radio being keyed up, which creates such dramatic spikes. More to the point, one doesn’t even need to cheat; using the same model in my home, I was easily able to record random spikes by doing nothing more than holding the meter in my living room.
In conclusion, there is nothing about this video footage that would lead me to believe it’s of a ghost. The analysis presented by the Ghosts of Morgan City crew is heavily skewed toward the idea this is really a ghost, and the “evidence” presented to the viewer appears to be cherry-picked to push that idea. More to the point, the investigation was simply incompetent; with the technology and resources available to the crew, it should not be difficult to get better quality images and/or identify the mysterious visitor.
When you tear away the paranormal biases promoted in these types of shows, we see nothing more than a short person who used a light in one room, then tried to navigate other rooms in the dark, bumping into furniture along the way. I also think there’s more footage we’re not seeing—and most likely never will.