The Power of Misinformation

The age of the internet is well upon us, we are now more connected and more informed than any other generation or culture that has ever graced the surface of the Earth.  We have at our finger tips a wealth of information, lighting fast interaction and communication with our peers the world over.  What may have taken a decade in previous eras, to circulate an idea, a theory, or a thesis among various academic circles, to be debated, analysed, examined and collectively decided on, now takes only weeks, and in some cases, only days.

The capacity of the internet in disseminating information has been and likely will continue to be the single greatest asset known to our collective development.  But, where there is such efficiency to spread ideas and information, there is enormous risk to all involved, where misinformation is accepted as truth without the use of critical thinking and verification.

A few examples pertaining to the ever prone world of paranormal phenomenon are presented below; you may recognise some of the items discussed, you may know them under different names and circumstances, you may even think you know the truth, though in most cases, you would be entirely wrong.

   The Mystery Monster in Question                                                  

Anyone who has spent any real amount of time searching and reading about paranormal phenomenon has most likely seen this photograph, and also likely they have seen it represented as any number of creatures and through any number of explanations.

In researching this piece I came across four distinct explanations for what we think we see pictured in this photograph.  They are as follows:

1)    Some time ago a girl a group of friends made a trip to historical sites in the Middle East. During the tour she had a chance to visit a cave on one of the hills around the holy city of Makkah. Inside, she was attracted by-she swears it was nothing but-a bright light perched on the cave’s wall, and took a picture of it. When she returned home the rolls of film she used during the trip were developed. And she was surprised to see a picture of a creature she never saw before in her life. She took the picture and showed it to her spiritual teacher. The Ustadzah explained that it was Satan in one of its forms, as was described by her teacher decades ago while she was still in school.

Presented by: [Username] ‘its me’ on the Unexplained Mysteries Forum website forum.

It’s interesting to note the use of middle eastern names and other words in the explanation when the rest of ‘its me’s’ post is written in plain, albeit very poor, English.  Following the above post many of the forums members cry foul, they outright label the presenter as a liar and expose the ridiculous story as a fraud right off the bat.  Kudos to them for spotting the fake, though their reasoning is less than admirable.

One particularly insightful responder posted an alternate version to the story, leading those who cared to follow to another series of websites, all claiming to have exclusive knowledge of the truth in this case.

Which leads us to example number two:

2)    “heres the real story:  Bashar writes, “This is a true story in Ras el Khaimah, United Arab Emerites. This picture has been released as a police report evidence in the UAE. The story is that a young man went in the caves in Ras el Khaimah to take pictures in caves known to be deserted, with a friend. He had been warned not to go. The person who had been with him called the police saying he had seen his friend’s flash go off and then his friend screamed. He called his friend but never got an answer and got scared that he’d fallen so went to the police. A few hours later they found the man in the cave dead and the single picture found in his camera is this one.”” Presented by [Username] ‘Chupacabra_Researcher’ on the same website forum.

Chupacabra_Researcher’s claim does seem more credible on the surface of it though we see right away, the similarities to the storys.  Both involve caves, both involve a mystery, both involve a supposedly credible source of confirmation (the teacher in the previous and the police in the latter).  Though as mentioned earlier this story takes us on an adventure across several paranormal websites.

The same story is repeated on what some might call reputable web sources, though none of these sources provides any further insight.  What they offer is essentially a carbon copy of the story above; they provide no reference material, no citations or footnotes, no corroborating evidence, and after spending some time examining the sources of the so called explanation, one finds it to be just as much of a fraud as the preceding fable.

Through that examination though, those who wish to look any further will find yet another explanation hidden in the pages of yet more paranormal websites.

The author (unamed) of the website: www.anomalies-unlimited.com offers his own critique of our number two explanation, though instead of providing some insight into the real meaning, he proceeds to offer our third incredible explanation:

3)    “I’ve seen this photo on several sites over the years, and the story ranges from “this is an alien” to “this is a decomposing guy in a ravine”.

This is the supposed real story, edited a bit to make the English better:

Bashar writes, “This is a true story in Ras el Khaimah, United Arab Emerites. This picture has been released as a police report evidence in the UAE. The story is that a young man went in the caves in Ras el Khaimah to take pictures in caves known to be deserted, with a friend. He had been warned not to go. The person who had been with him called the police saying he had seen his friend’s flash go off and then his friend screamed. He called his friend but never got an answer and got scared that he’d fallen so went to the police. A few hours later they found the man in the cave dead and the single picture found in his camera is this one.”

This kind of looks like me when I wake up in the morning, before my coffee.

Now for the real Real Story.

I first saw this picture on the web site of a Big Huge Late Night radio Talk show guy. They swore it was true. The Guy talked about it a few times over the next months. It used to piss me off that known, and I mean KNOWN hoaxes, debunked stuff and outright crazy people were fed to a whole new generation as Truth on this show. There’s enough real, anomalous stuff out there without lying to people. I put this photo on my site as one of the very first things and tell people to write to me if they wanted to know the REAL story. This is when 8 people knew I was messing around putting a few things up to occupy myself and I got 20 hits a week if I was lucky. Some would say YEAH! they saw this on this Big Web SIte! They got it in Email! They know the guy who took it! Then I got to tell them it was BS, and see how gullible we get? Believe what you want but use your brain a bit. Reading and Reasearch Are Your Friends.

Ok, the True Story – this is a real photo. Of a sculpture at a place called Cheddar Showcaves & Gorge in Somerset, England. A kind of park, if you will, with figures of dragons, dwarves, fairies, Demons of the Night. Kind of to spice the place up a bit.But you wouldn’t believe the people who would argue and insist to me that this was a real Djinn because they saw it on this Guy’s Website and he talked about it on his show and he swore it was true. They got it in email, their friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s neighbor took it.

I wish I had one of these for my hallway. Wouldn’t that be a great surprise for the mailman? :)”

Now, since this particular website doesn’t offer a forum to respond to this kind of nonsense, there are no further bread crumbs on this branch of our adventure.  But before we get to far ahead of ourselves, lets try to understand what makes his claim more credible than that of the people he criticises.

He literally claims the story cannot be true because it was presented along side other stories known to be hoaxes.  Well, I hope he checks his bath water for babies.  Unfortunately for his story he didn’t stop at debunking, he continued on and presented his own version of truth, and by now the poor creature in the photo is suffering from an identity crisis.  The explanation he offers seems, on the surface, to satisfy the debunking tastes of most audiences, though looking a little deeper yet, one finds that his story holds no water either, even though it’s not a supernatural explanation.

In trying to corroborate his claim that this creature is a simple plaster (or otherwise) model of a mythical being, placed in a UK park space as decoration, one finds that none of the many websites offering information about that particular park offers any such story.  Having not had opportunity to visit the park myself, I cannot claim it to be outright false, though one would think that if credibility were in question, providing reference to evidence might be prudent.

So, in the face of questionable explanation, where do we stand? At this point we still have no real idea what is pictured in this photograph.  It does have truth, for it exists, so someone knows the circumstances of its creation.  Though the sad fact remains that the mountains of misinformation that have been presented along side the image, have done immeasurable harm to any possible credibility the truth may hold.  We may never know it, and if the truth is presented we may not believe it anyway.

I, for one, want to know the truth, but I will not be satisfied with anecdote and hearsay.  In spite of that objection however, I invite any and all who have witnessed any other version or explanation for this photograph to come forward and post the account in comment below.  You may post anonymously or you may stake claim to your story, either way, let the flood gates be opened, and let the waters flow.

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