Based in Brooklyn, NY, I write about all things creepy and strange. My book based on the real haunting of Doris Bither (The Entity 1982 movie) will be released soon. Got a question? Drop me a line.


shield

There are times when a writer must face the music and accept the backlash over certain articles that they’ve written and defend their position or backtrack and apologize for insulting people and/or getting the facts wrong in their article; and like the mortified ostrich, bury their heads in the sand.

This is not that type of post.

I had written an article titled “Years later, where is the South Shields evidence?“. The article was blatant attempt to harshly critique Michael J. Hallowell & Darren W. Ritson for their unwillingness to easily present evidence they claim was captured of the “South Shields Poltergeist” case. Instead, they had released a horribly criticized video of a balancing water bottle to The Sun Newspaper and stated that it was “intriguing and very, very rare“. Pointing out that the balanced bottle could be paranormal evidence.

Now, I will admit that my post was ruthless and I did ‘shoot from the hip’ and unfairly accused the Michael and Darren of deceit. Given that there was no evidence made public of the case (only the ‘water bottle poltergeist’ video existed) I was concerned at the fact that their website(s) only offered brief hooks or selling points for their book on the South Shields case. In fact, their website(s) only has links for you to buy the book, but does not have links to any evidence about the case.

I was recently contacted by Michael J. Hallowell via email in a very harsh, but well deserved email, response to my article.

Michael makes very good points about my ‘shoot from the hip’ method and brought up good insight into what the team has done and is doing with the case. But I had a few rebuttals of my own. (of course)

I would just like to say that looking back at my earlier post, I did come off as a smug son of a bitch. But was I entirely wrong? I mean isn’t the point of paranormal research to find evidence of the paranormal and share that with skeptics, critics, arm chair investigators and professionals in the community? A collaboration of different minds, different backgrounds to help understand the strange phenomena that is around us?

To be fair, here is the email that was sent to me by Michael Hallowell with his explanation. Unedited and in its entirety. Michael addresses my comments as well as the comments left by readers of GhostTheory.


The text that starts with >> and is bold are my answers.


The video in question of the ‘balancing bottle’ is here:





If you would like to buy their book, you can do so here.

Dear Javier,
                   I am one of the authors of The South Shields Poltergeist – One Family’s Fight Against an Invisible Intruder. This morning my attention was drawn to your website GHOSTTHEORY where you’ve published an article in regards to our case.
 
Darren W. Ritson and I have gotten used to criticism, and we don’t mind it at all as long as it is well thought-out and balanced. Unfortunately, this can’t be said about your column or some of the subsequent postings made in response to it. I apologise in advance if this correspondence is long-winded, but given both its need and nature I had little option.
 
Before I get into the specifics, let me make a few general observations about the nature of your article.
 
People are, of course, entitled to their opinions about the South Shields case and our book. However, accusing people of engaging in a “charade”, as you did, has very serious ramifications as I’m sure you appreciate.
 
Let’s look at the moral implications.
 
Suppose you were an author/investigator and you were the butt of serious allegations of the type made in your column and subsequent postings when you knew that you had honestly and sincerely done the best you could to document a case of this nature: How would you feel? Wouldn’t you be disappointed, to put it mildly? How would you feel if your reputation and character were attacked on the Internet by people who didn’t know you, weren’t there when the investigation took place and hadn’t a clue about the real facts in any detail? Darren and I have even had to threaten legal proceedings on a number of occasions when false allegations have been made about us, and although its sad that this is necessary we have sometimes ultimately been left with no option when damaging, unwarranted allegations have been made about us.  Can you imagine how it feels, Javier, to be on the receiving end of unwarranted bullshit to this degree?  We’ve never shied away from criticism, Javier, and we don’t mind it at all – providing it’s based on the facts and not distortions and untruths.

>>> Let me quickly say that I don’t think my statement mentioning the word ‘charade’ will have “serious ramifications”. Here is the context in which it was used:


“…Like many other charades that we have seen in the past few years, like the “Bigfoot body” or the video of the “Alien peaking through a window” and the more infamous “Johor Hominid hoax” as well as many others, this case followed the same path.” 


I’m saying that as investigators of the paranormal, the evidence you collected was not made public yet you decided to publish a book on this case and expect us to see this biased investigation as truthful without given the opportunity to review the evidence and form an educated opinion for ourselves. I’ve seen this type of behavior before. I’m not saying that your intentions are to create a hoax, but given that the only available evidence to us (the public) was a video posted on The Sun’s website of a balanced water bottle, it leads me to assume this to be a charade. Much like the mentioned cases in my original comment.
For the record, I receive plenty of ‘hate mail’ for my articles. This comes with the territory…I’m used to it.

And then there’s the allegation that we deliberately held back from releasing the evidence for financial reasons: A wholly bogus assertion without one shred of truth to it, and we have documentary evidence to prove it. We have tried strenuously to get the evidence “out there”, but will only do so under certain conditions, not least of which include maintaining the anonymity of the family concerned. We have mountains of documentary evidence to prove this, too.
 
You know, Javier, a simple e-mail to us would have allowed us to give you the real facts before you published your article. You could then have published our responses to make sure that your article was fair and balanced. Instead, you have published a one-sided critique which we believe gives a damaging and inaccurate portrayal both of our investigation and our motives.

>> Again, it’s a one sided critique because of your decision on not sharing the evidence with the public.
 

During the time period since the publication of the book, Darren and I have been working extremely hard to get the evidence we accumulated “analysed”. We have also been negotiating with a number of media companies both here and in the USA. The truth is that had we broken our promise to the family concerned we could have made money – a substantial amount of it, actually – but we turned down the chance of financial gain because we refused to compromise our principles. Now can you see now why the allegation that we held back on publicising the evidence for financial reasons is so galling?
 
You describe yourself as a writer. I’ve looked at your GHOST THEORY site, and you know what? It’s not bad, actually. But in regards to our case, I’m afraid you got it seriously wrong. In the interests of fair play, I’d respectfully ask you to either take down your article and the subsequent postings or, preferably, post this response in full. At least this gives us the opportunity to nail the untrue and damaging allegations that have been made about us. If you truly believe in fairness and possess journalistic integrity, you’ll do one or the other. Think about it: if you were on the receiving end of unfounded allegations, wouldn’t you want the opportunity to respond and put the record straight? There is, however, a third option, which I’ll discuss with you presently.
 
I don’t expect you to believe anything we wrote in the book. You’re entitled to your own thoughts about us, no matter how inaccurate or negative they may be. However, once you publish them on the Internet or elsewhere then journalistic integrity demands that you do what you really should have done in the first place; give us the opportunity to respond.
 
Having said all that, here are my responses to the specific criticisms and allegations made by you and others on your website:
__________________________________
 
“They both started “WraithScape“. A paranormal research group with a website that sells their books on the subject.”
 
WraithScape is not and never was a paranormal research group. It is simply the working title of Darren W. Ritson and Michael J. Hallowell. No books are sold on the WraithScape website. Anyone who wants to purchase our books must first click on a link which takes them to one of a number of sites not owned by us where they can buy them.

 >> This excerpt is taken from your “WraithScape” site:
“WraithScape is the official website of Michael J. Hallowell
and Darren W. Ritson, the UK’s most radical paranormal v
investigation duo.  

WraithScape exists to keep you informed about Darren
& Mike’s activities.

Through WraithScape you will soon be able to link to the
WraithScape Media site where you can ALSO purchase
Mike & Darren’s publications and other merchandise.
Their books are also available from the Book Store page on
this site.”



So to me it seems like “WraithScape” is clearly the website for paranormal researchers Michael H. and Darren R. for the purpose of sharing their latest news and selling books (and other merchandise). Or did I misinterpret your statement? Guys, I’m all for selling your books and work on your website. There is no crime in that, so why deny it?

“…but withholding evidence in order to make more money goes against the basic reason why one pursuits [sic] a job in the paranormal field; the quest for truth.”
 
Well, firstly, withholding evidence to make money doesn’t in itself mean that the “quest for truth” has been compromised. Distorting evidence does that, which is an entirely different thing. But we haven’t done either. To suggest that we withheld the evidence to benefit financially is completely untrue. The evidence has only been “withheld” because we insisted that anyone using it must not identify or compromise the anonymity of the family concerned. Several media companies have negotiated with us since the case ended about the possibility of making a documentary on the affair, but felt that it would be necessary to identify the family. We are honouring our promise not to identify the family, which the individuals concerned requested.

>> Withholding and Distorting are both different, yes I agree. In this case, withholding evidence is assumed since you do not make your research public and are actively threatening legal actions if anyone posts the video of the infamous “water bottle poltergeist”. More on that later….

“Like many other charades…”
 
That’s just your subjective opinion of course. My dictionary defines “charade” as, “An obvious pretence; a deceptive act”. Working on the presumption that your definition of a “charade” is the same as ours, unless you can prove that we did anything as a pretence or engaged in any deception then you have no right to say that we did. If you feel we are guilty of deception then put forward your evidence. If not, then please retract the allegation. If you neither put forward the evidence nor retract the allegation – or at least clarify what you meant – then it will be obvious to us that you really don’t mind making unsubstantiated allegations about people.

>> I explain why I made the comparison between your research and the other cases that have been labeled a charade. Please read my earlier response above.

“Darren W. Ritson and Michael J. Hallowell are withholding the evidence that they claim is “… one of the best-ever documented cases of poltergeist infestation…” and are following the path of the Johor Hominid all over again. In the end of the Johor hominid, [sic]  the presenter of the evidence were [sic] made out to be a charlatan and his reputation tarnished [sic]. All because he refused to let the world analyze the evidence that was given to him. Not until he had a book deal.”
 
I’m confused. How on earth does a refusal to distribute evidence automatically make you a charlatan? It may make it more difficult to prove your case, but it doesn’t mean that you are lying. In any case, we aren’t following this path at all, and a simple e-mail to us would have allowed us to provide you with the real reason the material has not been released yet. It is disappointing that you decided to make your completely unfounded allegations without checking the facts first. In any case, we couldn’t be following what you call the “path of the Johor Hominid presenter”, as we already had our book deal, and had already offered up our evidence to scrutiny.

>> Granted, you’re right. The refusal to distribute evidence does not make you a charlatan. Although you guys do not play fair when it comes to offering your evidence for scrutiny. As I mentioned before, you have requested me to remove the “water bottle poltergeist” video from my website. This is from your letter:

“Since I began composing this e-mail I see that the original, authentic “bottle balance” footage (or at least a link to it) has again been published on your site without our permission. Darren and I would respectfully request that you respect our copyrights and remove this immediately”

 
“Why would any Paranormal Researcher refuse to share the evidence that they captured with the rest of the world [sic], if we are all in it for practically the same reasons?”
 
For the reason stated above, which you could have availed yourself of had you just bothered to check. In any event, what proof do you have that we are “refusing” to share our evidence? Just because we haven’t thrown it from the top of the Empire State Building with an open license doesn’t mean that we are refusing to distribute it. Quite simply, we are doing what any good investigators would do; releasing it in a controlled way and within moral and legal parameters. Darren and I find your assumptions completely audacious, as you have made them without any evidence or a detailed knowledge of the true facts.

 >>audacious? really? what about your request for me to take down the video? I find that to be audacious. Why not let the world examine it freely? This can be done and still preserve the anonymity of the family.

“If there was legit evidence captured on tape, I would assume that an investigator would be thrilled to have it analyzed and continue working on the case.”
 
And we are thrilled, for the evidence has been examined. For example, a review of the case is to be published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research soon. Scientific analysis of some footage has also been carried out, with fascinating results. We are confident that the review will go a long way to silencing our critics. As for “working on the case”, can you please supply us with any evidence that we aren’t? Actually, we have written a follow-up book, for which contracts have been signed with our publisher. Maybe this doesn’t qualify as “working on the case” in your eyes. Again, Javier, all this information could have been made available to you had you simply asked.

>> I apologize. I did wrongfully assume that you were not working on this case. The reason being was because no evidence has been released for years. It’s all kept private. Or at least not easily obtained by the public.

 
“Building their reputation as a legitimate researcher [sic], and not a novel writer.”
 
Javier, we have absolutely nothing to prove to you or anyone else in this regard. We are legitimate, and even world-famous veteran investigators like Colin Wilson have described our book as “one of the great classic works” on the poltergeist phenomenon. Another veteran researcher, eminent in his field, is Guy Lyon Playfair. Do you think a writer and researcher of his status would have penned a foreword for our book dealing with a case that was as risible as your article and some of the subsequent comments collectively suggests?
    A novel is a work of fiction. Our book was not a work of fiction; you may not like it and you may disagree with with our conclusions, methods, etc, but the people in the book are real and the events took place as described, often in front of multiple witnesses.
    I have written over one thousand articles on the paranormal and over a dozen books. Darren and I have lectured at conferences and universities on our research and acted as advisors to numerous media companies on different paranormal phenomena. I’ve interviewed dozens of people in the field, including Uri Geller, James Van Praagh, Tony Stockwell, Colin Fry, Billy Roberts…as well as professional researchers such as Ciaran O’Keefe, cryptozoologists Jon Downes and Richard Freeman, and ufologists Malcolm Robinson, Timothy Good, Philip Mantle and Nick Redfern to name but a few. A number of these are close personal friends of mine. I’m not boasting; I’m simply pointing out that I don’t need to build a reputation in my field as I think I have already established one.
 
“So where does this leave us? The South Shields Poltergeist website does not give us any data to go off on [sic], but instead has a long and argumentative Q&A section where it’s obvious that both Mr. Ritson and Hallowell [sic] are on [sic] defensive and protective mode.”
 
Of course we are. But then again, if we didn’t answer questions we’d be accused of “running scared”, wouldn’t we? Rather than ignore our critics we’ve faced them head on and answered them. Isn’t this the right and proper thing to do? Not in the eyes of some, it seems. If we don’t answer our critics we get accused of avoiding their questions because we don’t have answers. If we do answer them we get accused of being defensive and protective. It’s a classic case of being, “damned if we don’t and damned if we do”.

 >> Not necessarily. As investigators you have the responsibility to address all questions concerning the presented evidence or claim. You cannot simply pick and choose what you want to answer (unless of course the questions is blatantly rude or out of context).

“The video alone does not prove, nor does it disprove anything. The video of the water bottle does not prove that there is something paranormal about it. Just like the several videos on YouTube that show how the trick can be replicated, do not disprove the original video.”
 
And I’d agree. The footage we took shows what actually took place. How you interpret it is up to you. We have consistently said that it is the collective evidence that gives strength to our case, not one piece in isolation. Those who deride the “bottle balance” footage consistently fail to mention one thing; in our book The South Shields Poltergeist I specifically state that, for a number of factors, the footage really amounts to little or nothing evidentially. Here are my exact words:
 
 
“From a viewpoint of hard evidence, there’s not much to work with. There was only one witness present; myself. Further, there are numerous ways I could have faked the incident. In addition to this, the fact that the damaged base made it just possible to balance the bottle on its edge under some circumstances means that a rational explanation was available, even if highly unlikely.
       “Did I knock the bottle with my arm when I was dozing, and coincidentally hit it with just the right amount of force, and at the right trajectory, to tip it onto the damaged, slightly flattened area on the edge of the base? It seems unlikely, but I can’t rule it out”.
 
Its fascinating how those who either accuse us directly or imply that we may have faked the evidence never seem to point out that I personally neutered the evidential value of the footage myself and admit that there may have been a rational explanation for what occurred! It never seems to occur to our detractors that someone who wanted to fake evidence certainly wouldn’t be the first one to demolish its value before it has even been released into the public domain.
 
“The video above was uploaded by the YouTube user in order to show that the “Water bottle Poltergeist” video can be replicated easily and it’s a matter of simple physics”.
 
But surely as a professional writer and a historian you’d agree that it is a non sequitur to suggest that just because something can be faked, then it must have been?

 >> This is what you stated in The Sun’s article about the video in question:
“I had my head in a book, but glanced up to see my bottle of water tilting over.

“I poked and prodded it, but it was defying gravity and wouldn’t fall.

“When I came to my senses, I started filming again.

“It really is intriguing footage and very, very rare indeed.”

As a seasoned paranormal investigator, you presented the water bottle video to The Sun and commented on the footage as being really “intriguing and very, very rare”. Why present such weak evidence and play it up to be so intriguing? Your website states the following about the case:
“For several months, the authors and other researchers witnessed bizarre events in an otherwise ordinary South Shields home – including one of the householders being cut severely on his torso, threatening text messages sent to a mobile phone and objects hurtling through the air.”
So the only evidence you gave to the newspaper was the water bottle video? What about the cuts and the hurtling objects? Those would seem to be better choices for evidence in my opinion
.

“To this day, there has [sic] not been any new video or photos released about the case. Their website has not been updated and still stands as a website designed to sell a book, more than help the study of the paranormal.”
 
We’ve never said that the site was there to “help the study of the paranormal”. The website – which has been updated – is there to give people basic information about the case and to inform them about the book. That is the purpose of the website, Javier, and what’s wrong with that? The book was our arena for disseminating detailed information about the case and, we hope, furthering the advance of research into poltergeistry. The only updates necessary are those which involve new editions of the book or other relevant material. If we don’t make updates for a while then that’s because it wasn’t necessary to do so. As for no new pictures of the case being released, that is simply not true either. A number have been submitted to various media, and have been published. Your statement has no foundation. In any event, how could you possibly know that no new photos have been released? Did you blithely make this statement just because you weren’t personally aware of any such picture releases? A truly professional journalist would have contacted us and asked us if we’d released any new footage or pictures, and if not, why not?  Did you bother to do this? It seems that you didn’t, despite the fact that our contact details are all over our websites and in the back of the book.
 
“Was this all just misidentified natural phenomenon? [sic]  or [sic] was there a true haunting in play?”
 
I presume you mean phenomena. We never claimed that the case was a haunting, and have always drawn a strict demarcation between hauntings and poltergeist infestations.
 
“Until the documentary comes out on cable, and explains this a little better, I will always have my doubts.”
 
We are currently working with a media company who say they are prepared to do a documentary on the case without identifying the family concerned – which was our only reason for “withholding the evidence” until now, and not for financial motives as you scurrilously suggest.
 
 
“I mean, if the team says that this was a vicious and very active poltergeist, then why would it restrict itself to balancing a water bottle?”
 
Are you serious? Of course, it didn’t “restrict itself” to this at all; if you read the book you’ll see that it did far worse than this on scores of occasions! Did you actually read the book, Javier? However, the very nature of your question demonstrates your shallow understanding of the essence and modus operandi of the poltergeist.    
    The poltergeist will do anything to frighten its victims, and if you truly think that bizarre manifestations such as moving objects, bottles balancing on end, etc, are not frightening then you need to get out more. It is exactly because these manifestations are so bizarre that they are frightening. A poltergeist frightens people in many more ways than simply by naked aggression.
    Finally, you may be interested to know that in our follow-up book we uncovered a case involving poltergeistry in which the poltergeist did exactly the same thing, again with a plastic water bottle balanced on a table. The parallels between the two events are, by any standards, uncanny. The intriguing thing is that the second occurrence happened before our book was published or we had made public the “water bottle event” which occurred at South Shields. This means that the second event simply couldn’t have been a “copy-cat” hoax. Further, we had no knowledge of the case involving the second water bottle event before our book was published, and can prove this. This, then, eliminates the possibility of Darren and I having duplicated this other event at South Shields. That a poltergeist should perpetrate two identical events without witnesses in either case knowing about the other must go some way to legitimising both, I reckon.

 >> No, I did not read the book. As far as not understanding a poltergeist’s M.O., of course I do. It all boils down to evidence being withheld. With no information to go by, I judge on the evidence presented.

One of our readers who goes by “Leinster Danny” had this to say:

“I think it came down to a new book ,,and they dramatised the events…”

To which you replied:

“And your evidence for this is what, exactly? The only way you could know we had dramatised the events is if you had been there at the time. Then, and only then, would you be in a position to say whether our portrayal in the book was accurate or dramatised.”
I agree with you. We do not have evidence that states that the book was overly-dramatised. I do however have a review of one of your books titled “Paranormal South Tyneside” done by Tom Ruffles ‘Honorary review editor’ for the Society for Psychical Research. It states:


“Some of the personal anecdotes from the newspaper are rather weak but Hallowell compensates for this by producing an eclectic mix in a chatty style, with a wide variety of fortean phenomena thrown in, resulting in the type of narrative where if something is unconvincing or has a tenuous link to South Tyneside, never mind, there will be something else along shortly. A number of the items definitely bear only a tangential relationship to the area. Jack the Ripper may have been an unnamed sailor who spent some time in South Shields but the evidence is flimsy, as Hallowell acknowledges, and he does not indicate in what way any connection might be paranormal. A canal boat wasn’t haunted in Tyneside; the family came from there but the mystery occurred while they were navigating the Warwickshire Ring.”


http://www.spr.ac.uk/main/publication/regional-paranormal-guides-amberley-publishing


This doesn’t paint a good picture about your previous book. So my guess is that your style of writing has not changed. Maybe I’m wrong. I guess I could buy the book and read it myself. Which I think I will.
Listen guys, I’m not trying to be difficult or rude, but the mere act of showing a bottle balancing on a table and calling it “intriguing and rare” does not help you convince the skeptics. Or the general public for that matter. I will admit that my post was harsh and I did jump the gun on a lot, but this was all based on no evidence being made available since 2006. Yet two books have been published on the case and one documentary is on the works.

I think releasing the evidence to the public is the norm. Many have released evidence to the public for the sake of documenting a case, yet they focus on peer reviews and reviews from professional organizations. I think going back and forth through emails and stating small quips is unprofessional. To answer your request, I will not take down my original article, but will publish your email in its entirety.
I would also like the opportunity to see any other evidence that you guys have collected during your investigation of the South Shields Poltergeist case and would like to show it on GhostTheory.com so that readers can be made aware of your work. I would gladly ‘eat my words’ if the evidence presented is compelling.
-Javier
GhostTheory.com

Justin:
 
“And what is really puzzling about the water bottle video is that at 0:16 the video has an odd “jump cut.” Then right before the bottle falls over, we see the camera zoom in to a nice tight crop cutting off the bottom part of the bottle. So, if perhaps the cameraman merely just pushed over the bottle at this point, causing it to fall, we wouldn’t have been able to see this.”
 
As I was “the cameraman” in question I think I’m more than qualified to answer this. Firstly, the video you saw was taken from several pieces of footage on the website of a national newspaper. The pieces were joined together to provide a brief vignette of the entire amount of material. The “jump” was not in the original footage, but is there simply because two pieces of footage have been cropped and spliced together. The original pieces of footage – not spliced together – have been shown in lectures we have given and at private showings to independent researchers. There was no mystery about the “jump” – it’s purely the result of two separate pieces of footage being joined together for editorial reasons. If you read the book, you’ll see that I took several pieces of footage of the bottle at the time.
 
Secondly, regarding your cunning observation about the bottle being pushed over. You really DO need to read the book, for had you, you’d know that I did push the bottle over with my finger and have never hidden the fact. In fact, one of the pieces of footage actually shows me doing just this. Far from precipitating a mystery, you’ve simply supported our account of the incident as detailed in the book.
 
Leinster Danny:
 
“I think it came down to a new book ,,and they dramatised the events…”
 
And your evidence for this is what, exactly? The only way you could know we had dramatised the events is if you had been there at the time. Then, and only then, would you be in a position to say whether our portrayal in the book was accurate or dramatised.
 
“Funny they left there [sic] group just after the released the book”
 
What group?
 
“…a lot of [sic] goes on this side of the world give [sic] you a teaser then to know about [sic]  the rest buy the book.”
 
So, how would you suggest that we do release the full facts for people to read if not in a book? Since the dawn of civilisation people have written books. This is how the system works:
 
1) Someone writes a book.
 
2) Someone buys the book and reads it.
 
3) They tell someone else about the book.
 
4) That person then buys the book themselves, whilst simultaneously running the risk of not enjoying it as much
    as his or her friend did.
 
Everyone who wants to know the full facts as portrayed in a book has to buy the book, okay? There’s no other way of doing it, unless you steal one, borrow one, get one as a Christmas gift or find one lying in the street. There’s nothing immoral about making a living out of writing books. Like all authors, we get paid royalties for writing. This is how writers actually make a living. This may come as a shock to you, but very few writers or publishers give their books away free of charge.
   
 
Justin:
 
“The video is suspiciously edited like you pointed out. Goes to show that when people always withhold evidence until they get a book or movie deal, it’s a red flag for hoaxes.”
 
Suspiciously edited? As I’ve pointed out, the footage you saw was spliced together for editorial reasons and there was nothing suspicious about it. We never portrayed it to be one continuous piece of footage. Read the book and you’ll see exactly how the footage was taken – in several separate pieces. If we’d spliced the footage together and claimed it was one continuous piece then that would have been both suspicious and deceptive, and, as you say, a “red flag for hoaxes”, but we didn’t and have never claimed any such thing.
 
Leinster Danny:
 
“Really? So people found out that they over-dramatized the events? Interesting…”
 
It certainly is, and if anyone has any evidence that we did “over-dramatise” events we’d like to see it. There isn’t, because we didn’t.
 
 
Gary:
 
“Sheesh. I agree with ya Jav, if they had some evidence, why not release it and then go after a book deal after growing your reputation? Something smells funny in Denamrk [sic]…:)
   
But we got our “book deal” – on the strength of the case. We didn’t need the footage to get the book. As for our reputations, we already have them.
 
Kiri:
 
“…this guy goes step by step into how it was done…
http://badpsychics.co.uk/thefraudfiles/modules/news/article.php?storyid=889”
 
Uh, no; he shows how it could have been done. We’ve always said that it was possible to fake what we filmed – any paranormal phenomena can be faked.  As I’ve pointed out earlier in this response, I fully acknowledged in our book that the “bottle balance” footage could have been faked. The point is we didn’t fake it.
 
Stig:
 
“A similar trick can be performed with a drinks can. Just drink about a third of it and try to balance it at an angle on its rim. If it won’t balance, drink a little more and try it until it does. This is exactly the same as the South Shields Polt hoaxer did for that video.”
 
I hope you aren’t referring to me as a hoaxer, Stig, and that you are referring to the person who did a video showing how it could have been hoaxed.
 
   
Andrew Keeler:
 
“…another situation of [sic] the paranormal being exploited for profit.”
 
Actually, we’ve made very little out of this at all, and it was never our intention to. It would be interesting to know just how you arrived at this conclusion. How did you get to know what our motives were? Did you ask us? Or are you simply making an unwarranted assumption without any evidence?
 
“Peoples [sic] lack of real knowledge and absolute desperation to find something beyond thier [sic]  pathetic lives strikes again.”
 
Really? What pathetic lives are they, then? We’re two successful authors who’ve written dozens of books between us. We have solid reputations as investigators and our expertise is continually sought by professional people in the media and other areas of endeavour.  We’re successful, contented and happy. Where exactly does “pathetic” come in? What have you done with your life?
 
“This whole new wave of paranormal interest is doing so much damage to the credibility of the trade that people think we are nothing but con artists.”
 
Actually, what does real damage to our profession is when people make unfounded allegations without one whit of proof or evidence. Professional investigators make sure of their facts first, and do not make ad hominem attacks upon people without reason.
    Its ironic, isn’t it, that you accuse us of creating, “…another situation of the paranormal being exploited for profit.”, whilst at the same time calling our profession a “trade”, which is actually a way of making money! A question for you, Andrew: Do you believe that everyone who earns money from the field of paranormal research is engaging in exploitation? Think very carefully before you answer…
 
“I think there should be a Boy cott [sic] of this book!!!”
 
Go for it, Andrew! The best way to guarantee book sales is for someone to boycott it or demand that it’s banned. Then everyone want’s to read it. Organise your boycott, and knock yourself out! Then Darren and I might just make the money in reality that people erroneously think we’ve made already.
 
“They are probably seeing the footage and are like are you serious? you [sic] expect us to think this crap is for real?”
 
Well, we’ve been there when they saw the footage, and I can assure you that there was no such reaction as you describe – at any time. You weren’t there, so how would you know?
 
“amatuers…”
 
Somehow, I suspect you don’t investigate the paranormal for a living. As for “amatuers”, you can’t even spell the word correctly, which about says it all, really.
 
“…but like any real investigator ive [sic]  got alot [sic] pent up rage”.
 
And what makes you a “real” investigator? You do this for a living? You’ve written books on the subject too, and done decades of intensive research? And why do “real investigators” have to have “pent-up rage”?
 
___________________________
 
I’m sorry if my responses to the criticisms in your article and the subsequent postings seem robust. Javier, but I’m sure you’ll agree that they are no more robust than the criticisms themselves.  Darren and I do not mind in the least being criticised, as I’ve said, but in the interests of fairness we think the least you can do is publish this response so that your readers can hear the other side of the story – for there truly is one.
 
All Darren and I did was make a monumental effort to help a family that was in real distress. We never took so much as a dime from them or anyone else during the entire investigation, and paid all our own expenses, which were considerable. Our income from the book has been extremely modest, and we have never held back from releasing our material for financial reasons.
 
I have sent this to you as a private e-mail before submitting it as a posting to elicit your comments first. If you decide – and I hope you will – to publish it on your site then please let me know whether you are going to post it up there yourself, whether you want it re-submitted as a posting from me or – this is the third option which I mentioned earlier – you will allow me to write up my response as a conventional article for publication on your site. I’d be happy to do this if you’d prefer.
 
Darren and I will be happy to answer any further genuine questions or criticisms on your website, given that time allows considering our busy schedules, providing that they are submitted in a reasonable manner and do not contain vitriolic language, insults, false allegations or ad hominem attacks, which are entirely unnecessary.
 
As one writer to another, I appeal to your sense of fair play. All we are asking is the opportunity to defend ourselves.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
 
Mike Hallowell
 
PS: Since I began composing this e-mail I see that the original, authentic “bottle balance” footage (or at least a link to it) has again been published on your site without our permission. Darren and I would respectfully request that you respect our copyrights and remove this immediately.
 
 
 
 

  • Mike Hallowell

    Glen,
    There was no threat of legal action against Javier, or anyone else. I merely made the point that Darren and I had been forced into that circumstance with others. I’ve given a robust response to GhostTheory about the criticisms of us posted on-line, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s it.

    As for the rest of your diatribe, yawn…..

    Eric,
    Good point, well taken. Still doesn’t make it right, though…

  • Mike Hallowell

    Javier,
    regarding the distribution of the footage and/or other materials to you or anyone else, Darren and I will stick by our policy of distributing it as and when we see fit. Unfortunately events tied up with the whole issue, along with the knock-on effect this could potentially have on the production of a TV documentary, has made us put on hold any further distribution to interested parties until these matters are resolved. This does NOT mean that we won’t give copies of our material to those we trust to analyse it competently and fairly, as we have already done, providing our rights are respected.

    For those who may think we’re stalling, don’t actually have anything to release, made it all up, are in it for the money, etc. etc. etc.ad infinitum, I’d simply remind those concerned that the material has been examined (and in some cases analysed) and that details of some of this this will soon be published, with more to follow on.

    I agree that any further discussion is probably fruitless, so this will probably be my final word on the matter on this site.

    Unfortunately, the tone taken by some posters only reinforces our belief that this is the right course of action.

  • BC

    I think something happened at South Shields but Javier raises some valid concerns.

  • BC

    I’m reluctant to post this link because I don’t want to get Mike’s pal Jon Downes and the Center for Fortean Zoology in trouble (ie, Mike requests them to take down this video) but once a year they host what they call the Weird Weekend and Mike was a presenter at one. After watching this my instincts tell me Mike is telling the truth. He strikes me as a sober and credible researcher. I would encourage others to check it out (while it is still up) and decide for themselves whether they think he is credible (his presentation is about a hour long and unfortunately the quality of the filming/audio is crap). Given the extraordinary nature of the story and how things have played out I would blame no one if they watched this and still thought it was all bullshit. I can only say, I believe the guy, and I hope that the SPR article and forthcoming documentary (if one does come out) will add credence to the case:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRwkto2P7es

  • jbondo

    Mike,

    Unfortunately it would seem that you and Darren are closing everyone out because of a few bad apples. I certainly hope you would speak to Darren and reconsider my request to review the unreleased evidence.

    As a respected poster here I hope you would see me as a neutral party that would give your evidence every consideration as well as a thorough examination. I would be glad to sign off on any reasonable nondisclosure agreement prior to receipt.

    You may email me here: [email protected]

    If you are looking for supportive individuals that will back you up on these tireless attacks I would be glad to provide such support upon my approving the legitimacy of your claims.

    Again Gentlemen, I respectfully ask that you reconsider.

  • Glen

    “Good point, well taken. Still doesn’t make it right, though…”

    Oh for christ’s sake grow a pair. You’re so hard done by.

    “Unfortunately, the tone taken by some posters only reinforces our belief that this is the right course of action.”

    Aw muffin, you mean I’m going to have to wait to see your captivating footage of floating-recyclables, whatever will I do?

    Good thing I made the posts I did boys, otherwise you wouldn’t have any other way out of showing anyone this footage. You can message me regarding where to send my royalty cheque(s).

    Q: How many paranormal investigators does it take to write a book about floating water bottles?

    A: At least two!

  • John

    Hi Mike (and Darren)

    After reading numerous publications written by both you and Mr. Ritson; I personally find your work to be integral and informative towards many aspects of fortean phenomena. As for the South Shields Poltergeist Case – which has obviously spawned some incessant debate in recent years – the only advice I can give, to anyone who has not read the book already, is go out and read it! You may look at it from a completely different vantage upon doing so – and, as the author(s) suggest, make a profound opinion on the facts, rather than, what I consider, to be wholly porous accusations.

    By the way, Javier, I suggest you read Mike’s “Paranormal South Tyneside” book before pulling the “one” negative review card!

    It was an excellent read – and I can say that, wholeheartedly, because I have read it!!

    Peace J

  • John

    This is what I can’t comprehend about you guys, you want to know what’s going on with this case, but yet, because the authors responses contradicted your own, you start talking utter bullshit and acting like children. It’s all big and clever when your behind a keyboard eh? But the truth is you’ll continue to flip burgers at Micky D’s – and Mike and Darren will continue with with their successful career investigating paranormal phenomena.

    Peace J

  • Mike Hallowell,

    I just received word from the publishing house for your “South Shields Poltergeist” book.

    Gary and I will review the book and post an unbiased review of it on GhostTheory.com

    If you guys ever do change you mind and want to release any evidence to us and the readers here on GhostTheory, please do so. All copyrights to the videos will be honored. I think this would boost interest to your research.

    Thanks again

    -Javier

  • Jimmi

    I am a friend of the family who were affected by the south shields poltergeist.
    I have actually read the book published by Mr Hallowell and Mr Ritson and believe it to be simply a run down of the diary notes logged by the family during this time.
    When visiting the house, I have never experienced any paranormal activity, although, the family still experience unexplained events at times.
    As for the bottle incident, I am aware that Mr Hallowell was in the kitchen of the home alone so the family can not verify that this was an act of the infestation they had experienced.
    I do not wish to discredit these two investigators and do not dispute that they are successful investigators, however, I feel that this phenomena has gone has far as it can in the hands of them and they maybe should focus on other cases that they may succeed with.
    The south shields poltergeist occurred 5 years ago – I think its time to put it to bed.

  • jbondo

    Jimmi,

    You may be right about “putting it to bed”. However, there may be something bigger going on here which goes far beyond the South Shields story. This is kind of a jumping off point or a good way to expose possible impropriety.

    I for one don’t care for the idea of taking advantage of the public in order to gain fame or profit. When the bells an whistles go off it’s time to look a little deeper.

    I am by no means accusing either man associated with the investigation or book. However, IMO (and others) there is more to it than is presented.

  • Jimmi

    jbondo

    I totally agree with your views – it does very much appear that these investigators are in it for their own gain and will go to any lengths to achieve this.
    My friends who were subject of their book recieved no money for any of the articles or books published regarding their ordeal and have incurred legal costs to prevent their identity being made public.
    After months of strangers coming into their home setting up equipment, taking photos and having to constantly log diary notes, they have become victims of exploitation.
    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I think that the doubts raised are valid and with so many hoax cases out there, until we are presented with concrete evidence, very few of us will be convinced.
    What I don’t understand is why are these investigators still trying to sensationalise this case – the public have seen the evidence presented by them and most people are not convinced.
    Maybe it is a good idea to look into other cases investigated by them – are they genuine professional investigators?

  • Anonymous

    well have way though the book now and if I had made a promise to myself that I would read it all the way though Id chuck it in the bin. The authors complain about people using new age stuff to sort out haunting problems then what does one of them use Native american magic. Next there is the bit if the twristed chair but the only photo of it is when it is normal. And the scratch card well either the polt was peed because they hand calmed the £1 prize on it or he was trying to make them rich. and dont mention the water bottle

  • Anonymous,

    That was our frustration with the book as well. Read our review:

    http://www.ghosttheory.com/2010/03/28/book-review-the-south-shields-poltergeist

    It’s suspicious when they only show pictures of the aftermath effect of a supposed poltergeist event. They claimed to be present during other events, but never supply the readers with any better evidence.

    -Javier

  • the skeptic

    I have read The South Shields Poltergeist, and I admit that I am a sceptic, although in Mike and Darren’s world, those who criticise their work are not sceptics, but “rabid” sceptics.

    Let me state my position at the outset: I am sceptical of paranormal claims because there is not, anywhere, any incontrovertible evidence that it is true. Although even the believers and promoters of the paranormal admit there are frauds out there, they never tell us how to separate the frauds from the real deal, if there is such a thing. I therefore always assume that those who claim that the paranormal is real are people who are honest and sincere in their belief, even if I think they are wrong. And that is my position regarding Messrs Hallowell and Ritson.

    As is obvious from this and other blogs, Mike and Darren cannot take criticism, and their threats to institute legal action rather than supply robust evidence to support their claim just reduces their credibility. It should be remembered that the British Chiropractic Association started legal proceedings against the science writer Simon Singh because he pointed out they were promoting treatments that had no evidence to support them. But it backfired spectacularly: the case was withdrawn when hundreds of chiropractors found themselves under investigation; many were told to take down their websites and remove literature that made unsubstantiated claims; and even better, the archaic libel laws of the UK are now being overhauled to ensure that people can make fair criticism without fear of prosecution. But threatening to prosecute because someone has linked to something that might actually be classed as evidence is just absurd. When the new laws are put into place next year, I think the authors are going to find out what real criticism is all about. Let’s see them reap that whirlwind.

    I’ll make a few comments about the book:

    The witnesses to the alleged phenomena (who gave written testimonials at the end of the book) included members of the NEGRT (North East Ghost Research Team). Team leader: Darren Ritson; Team patron: Mike Hallowell. The team itself consisted of six people, each of whom had a profile page detailing their belief in the paranormal, their ambitions to develop their psychic abilities, and their favourite films (The Exorcist, for instance, and other horror stories). In other words, the witnesses were Mike and Darren’s own people who are committed believers – hardly an unbiased and objective set of observers. And I am writing about them in the past tense because NEGRT and all its web pages have mysteriously vanished from the Wraithscape web site, although there are cached copies if you know where to look.

    In the book, Mike states that he thought “Marc” might be playing a hoax and he therefore decided to test him by creating the appearance of poltergeist activity. And Mike is quite clear about this: he knows how to set up fake paranormal stunts without being detected; but he is also clear that he is not going to tell the reader what he did, or how he did it. This, he says, is because he does not want people to have the ability to fool ghost hunters who might genuinely be trying to track down paranormal happenings.

    Fair enough on the face of it, perhaps, but he also says that he is not even letting his close colleague Darren in on it either. I think Darren could do worse than ask his boss (oops, I mean co-author) why not? Is Mike happy to see Darren possibly made a fool of by pranksters because he is not allowed to have the information that would help him avoid such pitfalls? What sort of partnership is it where one party keeps crucial information from the other?

    Interestingly, the NEGRT team members attended the alleged poltergeist house individually and on different occasions. And they each had the extraordinary luck to be present when a “manifestation” happened. And so was Mike. Who can produce fake paranormal phenomena. Without being detected. Of course, I’m not suggesting that that was what happened, but those less charitable than me might have another opinion.

    What Mike and Darren have to face up to is the fact that sceptics are not claiming (as Mike always asserts using a straw man argument) that if a phenomenon can be duplicated using trickery then it means that all paranormal phenomena “must” be faked. What sceptics are saying is that when someone else can reproduce an alleged paranormal phenomenon, investigators of the paranormal have not eliminated trickery as a possible explanation. They have to understand that what they think is strong evidence of their poltergeist is actually no more than an anecdotal account and therefore worthless in terms of evidence.

    Even more interesting is the claim that two qualified nurses confirmed that the injuries to Marc were paranormal in origin. These alleged nurses have not, like the other witnesses, made statements in the book to confirm their opinions, nor have they been identified by name. Nurses know how to write up a medical report, so would the authors care to publish it? Even if the nurses want anonymity, the report could still be published with their names withheld. But more importantly, I would ask: did these nurses actually examine the physical injuries to Marc that they say are paranormal in origin? Can we see the evidence? Why weren’t they included in the list of testimonials?

    As a trained researcher with an accredited honours degree from an accredited university, I read this book with some bewilderment. Do either of the authors actually have a recognised research – or any academic – qualification? Their standard of research suggests not – but I am happy to be corrected by them if I am wrong. Had I submitted my dissertation without references or citations, or if I had ensured that none of the claims could be verified, or if I relied on anecdotes, threatened my tutors with legal action, or if I otherwise produced a piece of “research” matching the standards of the South Shields Poltergeist, then I am sure it would have been returned to me with a boldly written comment along the lines of, “You are a credulous clod. Leave this university campus and don’t come back.”

    As a sceptic, neither rabid nor pseudo, I have no argument with qualified paranormal researchers – parapsychologists, for example – who are trying to prove that the paranormal is real. In fact, I wouldn’t mind being the first to offer such proof myself (a Nobel Prize on my CV would be useful). But the so-called research offered by the authors is nothing more than a list of unverifiable anecdotes, which only serves to set back whatever real research into the subject might be going on, if the average reader thinks that this is as good as it gets.

    A common theme in a lot of the stuff Mike writes is this business of evidence being sent away for “expert” or “scientific” analysis; and according to him, these things are always returning “startling” results. The only problem is that we are never shown these startling results. Don’t expect to actually see this evidence, or find out who the experts/scientists are, or in which scientific journals their results are published, and expecially don’t expect to ever hear anything about it again. This kind of claim has been going on for over ten years in the dire “paranormal” column Mike Hallowell inflicts on the readership of the Shields Gazette every Thursday evening. In all that time I cannot remember any of these claims of “analysis” and “startling results” ever being referred to again. Maybe Mike will be kind enough to supply any examples I might have missed: if I am wrong, I am willing to admit it.

    And now I see that Mike Hallowell has had the “bottle footage” removed (“This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Michael J Hallowell”). Yes, Mike and Darren seem determined that no tangible evidence of their poltergeist can be examined by anyone. How on Earth can they expect any rational person to take this book (or them) seriously? The boys are in a huff and have taken their ball home.

    Mike says:

    “So, how would you suggest that we do release the full facts for people to read if not in a book? [The point here, of course, is that they have NOT released the full facts at all – as Mike has said, the evidence belongs to them and they don’t have to share it with anyone.] Since the dawn of civilisation people have written books. This is how the system works:

    1) Someone writes a book.

    2) Someone buys the book and reads it.

    3) They tell someone else about the book.

    4) That person then buys the book themselves, whilst simultaneously running the risk of not enjoying it as much as his or her friend did.”

    But as Mike seems to have found out, the harsh reality is different: here is how the system really works:

    1) Mike and Darren write The South Shields Poltergeist.

    2) Someone buys the book and reads it.

    3) They tell someone else it’s baloney.

    4) No-one else buys the book, hence the very modest sales.

    I think that if the authors have really found believable evidence of poltergeists, but had actually published it, their book would have hit the bestsellers lists, and they would have been feted around the world, rather than fending off the criticism they are receiving, not only from sceptics, but even from believers in the paranormal. If they insist on hiding their evidence, then I think people can fairly ask, “What have you got to hide?”