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Fact or Faked: Paranormal Investigations

Fact or FakedSyfy's summer reality hit, Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, is back for season 1.5. The series follows a team of investigators as they discover the truth behind unexplained and "paranormal" videos. The team includes Ben Hansen, a former special agent of the FBI, scientist Bill Murphy, journalist Jael de Pardo, effects specialist Larry Caughlan, Jr., photography expert Chi-Lan Lieu, and stunt expert Austin Porter. They use their expertise, as well as CSI-like techniques to try to recreate the videos to prove whether they are fact, faked, or sometimes simply misidentified.

In Orlando, Flordia, in a recent press tour, Ben Hansen, Bill Murphy, and Jael de Pardo sat down to discuss their hit show.


FACT OR FAKED: PARANORMAL FILES

BEN HANSEN
BILL MURPHY
JAEL DE PARDO
MARK STERN

MARK STERN: Let's begin our next panel. We're in the home stretch now. We're coming right there. Two more panels; then we do this really cool thing with Marcel, who has created some amazing desserts. Next panel, Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files. Fact or Faked was our breakout hit this summer. It launched our new Thursday night block of reality. It comes back Thursday, October 28th, at ten o'clock with six new episodes on the heels of the Destination Truth finale. So please welcome Ben Hansen, Bill Murphy, and Jael de Pardo.

(Applause.)

Have a seat.

BEN HANSEN: Right here?

MARK STERN: Right there. Otherwise, I'll have to stand if you sit here. So welcome, you guys.

BEN HANSEN: Thank you.

JAEL DE PARDO: Thank you.

BILL MURPHY: Good to be here.

BEN HANSEN: It's a crazy hotel, isn't it? It's like you need a map to get around here. It's huge.

MARK STERN: It's so Italian too.

BEN HANSEN: It is.

JAEL DE PARDO: I love Italy.

BEN HANSEN: Everywhere you go, they say hello to you in Italian or something. And then they say it in English and --

MARK STERN: So before we throw it up to the -- to our journalists, let me ask you guys, you've had some very interesting videos. How do they come to you? How do you find these videos?

Fact or FakedBEN HANSEN: Initially we had to kind of do it on our own because we didn't have the submission line set up. So it was really quite a task. It started out kind of like Bill and I primarily, and then the other team members started getting involved. And it was really just hours and hours of, like, searching on YouTube. We looked a lot at the paranormal blogs. But, you know, it's trying to get a lot of this stuff that's not mainline, and that's kind of difficult to do. So I would actually go to some of the MUFON meetings, which the Mutual UFO Network. I would start networking with the people there asking, "Hey, do you know anyone who has a really cool video?" It was really kind of difficult at first. But now that we're out there, we have a lot of people who are submitting themselves. But that kind of also adds another problem in that you're getting some people who are purposely making hoaxes. And we don't really encourage that because we'd like the legitimate stuff, but that's kind of where we're at right now is trying to balance searching on our own as opposed to other people bringing them to us.

MARK STERN: Well, I think that raises one of the other questions I wanted to ask you, which is -- and for those of you who aren't familiar with the show, Ben and his team find video online and in other places and then see if they can recreate it, see if it's been -- see if it's hoax or not, if it's real or not if they can figure out how it was done. But how do you -- what is your process in terms of figuring out which videos you should pursue and which you shouldn't?

BILL MURPHY: Well, there's several criteria that it has to meet. The video itself has to be compelling. And it has to have an available witness. And the video has to be testable. So if it's a video that is in deep space, that's not something that we can replicate very easily. So we may discard it for that reason.

MARK STERN: Maybe second season.

BILL MURPHY: Yeah, maybe so. I hope so.

BEN HANSEN: As the budget grows, we're hoping to create our own space shuttle and --

BILL MURPHY: If it's an anonymously posted video, then that removes the witness. If it's a compelling video, that's pretty easy to discern when you look at it. If it's got that factor that's kind of like a wow and "Is this real or not?," then it's one that we're likely to present to the rest of the team.

JAEL DE PARDO: And I think the great thing about the videos being on line is -- the fact that they're viral is they have an audience that's already vested in them. So it makes for an interesting case that a lot of people are looking for answers on.

MARK STERN: Great.

BILL MURPHY: The only challenge with online videos is that you may start off with an intention to find a good video for the show, but five hours later, I find myself looking at '80s music videos.

(Laughter.)

It's like I have to get back to what I started.

MARK STERN: Laughing cats riding hippopotamuses and --

BILL MURPHY: That's it.

BEN HANSEN: Oh, yeah. And people send those to you all the time. We could spend all day just looking at videos. It is really kind of hard to sift through stuff because then you have to contact the person, see if they're legit. A lot of people, once they're confronted, "Hey, we'd like to use this for a TV show," then they back away from it, and you lose the whole thing. And you're like, "Ah, but it was such a good video. It was so awesome." But I'm not going to do it if we already know that it's been faked.

MARK STERN: Is there one that's been particularly compelling that you wish you could've done that someone has said, "No, we won't" -- "I don't want to go on TV?"

BILL MURPHY: You mean a video that we've considered already? Well, there's one that I would like to do. This is one that we actually have shown in the situation room already. And it's a -- the couple says that it's an alien-abduction experience that they've had. And they set up a camera in their home, and they caught a glimpse --

BEN HANSEN: In Florida.

BILL MURPHY: Yeah, in Florida. They caught a glimpse of this alien -- what looks like an alien peeking into their room from their bathroom. And because I like the backstory for that one, it's a case that I would like to do, because normally those alien-abduction experiences may just be more of a psychic event as opposed to a physical one. So I'd like to explore that one.

MARK STERN: Cool. Okay. Let's open it up to your questions.

QUESTION: Hi, everybody. By the way, I love Fact or Faked.

BILL MURPHY: Thank you.

QUESTION: It's a great show. But one thing that I've heard and even I've felt sometimes is that -- and maybe it just doesn't make it into the final cut, but sometimes it seems like when you guys have declared that, "Well, we can't really solve this" or "We're not sure what it is," that maybe not enough has been done. Do you get some of that feedback sometimes? And is it just stuff that just might have ended up on the cutting room floor, or is it just that maybe people have preposterous ideas of trying to prove things?

Ben HansenBEN HANSEN: I think you're exactly right. After the first six aired -- I do frequent a lot of the blogs. In fact, I'm a regular kind of writer and responder directly to some people on a blog called Ghost Hunting Theories. And I write back because it matters to me what people think. And one of the main criticisms was "You guys didn't try this. You didn't go far enough with this one." And you're right, the main constriction is time. What we're doing this season to try to kind of plug some of those holes is if we didn't get time to at least show that experiment, we're going to try and address it and talk about it. And then there's always radio interviews, chats. We're always open to answering people's questions afterwards, because it does -- you can imagine we're dealing with topics and themes that are so huge, so great, you can't possibly give someone the whole history and backstory of a phenomena, then present them the case, then do all of the experiments in about 17 minutes and then wrap it up, because that's what it whittles down to after commercials and everything. We do two cases per show. So it is really difficult, and you don't want the end product to end up looking like you're just jump-cutting here, here, here, here and you feel, like, schizophrenic watching it.

JAEL DE PARDO: Yeah. It's hard to definitively say something is fact or faked. And like Ben was saying, with the restraint of time, I think our goal is to collect as much evidence as we can to get closer to an answer. And sometimes we have to continue rather than, just in one episode, say, "Okay, this is definitely fact or faked."

BILL MURPHY: And there's a third category, and that's misidentification. So sometimes it's fact and you can ID it. Sometimes it is a hoax. But often it's just something that appears to be what we want to see, and it really isn't.

BEN HANSEN: Right. And we were just talking about this. I think it's much easier to say something is fake if we have got an admission or definitive proof than it is to say that something is real, because there could always be another explanation. And so really what we like to do is just kind of take the event, take the phenomena, cook it up, chop it up, prepare it, and put it on a plate for people and let them decide. Because we definitely do not think we're the final authority on some of these major events. We're just trying to help explore it and add value to the exploration.

MARK STERN: So it's like a cooking show.

BEN HANSEN: It is, it is.

MARK STERN: Next question.

QUESTION: Hi, guys. I was wondering, if you were going to -- not that you would, but if you were going to fake your own video, what would it look like?

(Laughter.)

BEN HANSEN: If we were going to fake it, what would we do? Is that the question?

QUESTION: Yes.

BILL MURPHY: That would have been more difficult to answer before we started the show. But because we're trying to replicate the videos, we're looking for alternative explanations. So now we see how easy it is to replicate -- like look at the Arizona lights case, those who happen to see that particular episode. We were able to really convincingly create lights in the sky with lasers and panes of glass. So I mean, now it's like a slam-dunk kind of answer just to shoot off a number of examples. So unfortunately, I think the question would have been -- for me, before the show started, I would have had a different set of answers.

BEN HANSEN: He's taking notes. He's going to submit one.

(Laughter.)

I think there are a number of tips of things to do if you're going to fake one. My background really is in human behavior. The interviews, interrogations that I used to do in my former career at different agencies is actually more focused on the person rather than the physical evidence. And so that needs to come through in the video. You can pick up -- if -- you imagine yourself if you were to see a UFO or to capture an alien on film. What would someone's natural reaction be? Now, the way someone reacts to it can be very different, depending on the person. But there are certain things -- like if you're seeing a camera set up and it's a very steady shot, like it looks like it was on a tripod, those are the types of things that, if you were to create a video, you'd want to be conscious of, that it's not going to be good. It could be completely out of focus. It could be shaky. It could be just a glimpse, because realistically if you're really seeing what you think you're seeing, you're going to grab your camera, and you're going to turn it on halfway. There's going to be shakiness. There's going to be conversations going on. So it's stuff like that that most people look at one or two details but not every detail of what makes a video authentic when they try to fake something.

QUESTION: But would it be a ghost, a UFO, Bigfoot?

BEN HANSEN: Oh, what type of video. I'm sorry, I missed it completely.

QUESTION: Thank you for the tips.

(Laughter.)

BEN HANSEN: I actually made a few ghost pictures myself just for fun. And I didn't realize Photoshop was all that difficult to use. So ghosts would be fun. And I'd like to do a really good UFO.

BILL MURPHY: For me, it would be telekinesis, moving objects with just mind power.

JAEL DE PARDO: That's a good one.

BILL MURPHY: And you?

JAEL DE PARDO: I think it would probably have to be a ghost.

BILL MURPHY: Okay.

JAEL DE PARDO: Yeah.

BILL MURPHY: There you go.

QUESTION:: Out of all the cases you've done, which has surprised you that, even if you can't prove it's real, but you believe yourself it was real?

BILL MURPHY: Well, there are cases that we have that remain open. One of my favorites that is unsolved is the Fresno Nightcrawler case.

JAEL DE PARDO: I'd have to agree.

BILL MURPHY: Yeah. So that's one that certainly seemed that there was something out there with us, particularly once we got to the wooded area. I don't know if everybody saw that episode or not.

MARK STERN: Why don't you tell us a little bit about it.

Bill MurphyBILL MURPHY: Well, what happened in the Nightcrawler episode, a homeowner -- and I'll just give you the very truncated version. He set up a surveillance camera in front of his house because of the dogs barking in the neighborhood. And there was a concern that maybe there as a prowler. And he caught a creature that only has two legs and a head -- at least that's how it looks -- walking across his yard followed by a second one that was very similar in appearance, very directional, very much moving north. During the witness interview there was -- we learned -- but it wasn't aired -- that there was a second sighting north of that initial location. We looked on a map. North of that second location was a large wooded area. So that's where we eventually ended up. In the wooded area, it seemed like we were in pursuit of something that was always staying in the tree lines. And when we'd go to the tree line, they would dodge us and go to the next one. So we were there until the early morning at this point, and it was quite cold, quite wet. And we never were able to catch up with it. We felt that it was -- you weren't on that case, but we were. We felt like we were the ones that were maybe under observation as opposed to the other way around.

JAEL DE PARDO: Exactly.

BILL MURPHY: We were supposed to be pursuing these creatures, and we were the ones being toyed with, seemingly. That case remains an open case. We could not prove it. We could not replicate it, despite some very sophisticated attempts. So Fresno Nightcrawler.

BEN HANSEN: And I was on a case also with Jael, and this was just incredible. We were in the Indiana cemetery, and we were investigating this -- what they called a train light. This light that someone captured while they were out there at a cemetery came zooming by. Well, we were able to kind of show how that might be replicated somewhat. But while we were in the cemetery, I'm not joking, like, I was walking along, and I would hear -- every couple steps, it sounded like leaves crunching. There was no wind there. And this was some of the most incredible evidence I have seen and that we captured on video, because as I looked around, about every five steps, in a circle, I looked closely at the ground and actually saw leaves depressing, like in a footprint, like -- so then I would take another step, and they would go down again and again. And in between cuts, I brought our field director over, and I was like, "You have to see this." And we went running out of there like little girls.

(Laughter.)

I'd never seen anything like that. We were lucky enough to capture it a few times on camera. One of those times I was close enough, I did see a centipede running underneath the leaves that possibly could have carried a leave. But every time? I highly, highly doubt it. It's one of those that just leaves your mind searching. Like was something actually out there following us?

JAEL DE PARDO: Yeah, it's really strange. It was almost like there was footing in front of us. We were following it, and then it actually led us to the tomb of the --

BEN HANSEN: Yeah.

JAEL DE PARDO: -- ghost we were investigating, which was really odd.

BEN HANSEN: Yeah.

MARK STERN: Okay. Any other questions?

QUESTION: In the situation room are there ever any sort of like heated discussions where somebody has a video and some other people are trying to disprove why it can't be real, but someone else is really adamant that it's something that should be investigated?

BILL MURPHY: Yes. And you're going to see more of that in the next cycle where -- we're now more comfortable with each other as a team. And I think we're more prone -- if we disagree, we're going to express that. And we're going to hold our positions if we firmly believe that. So yeah, it gets -- I wouldn't say heated. I mean, it stays cordial, but certainly everybody holds their ground.

BEN HANSEN: In the field too there's not always a consensus. I know that in starting out and filming, like, very few of us actually have a background in TV and everything. And so we're -- for me, it was weird trying to have a conversation in front of a TV camera. And you want to be, like -- get along well with them and everything, or what are people going to think of me? But now that we've been together for a while, we don't always reach a consensus, and we razz each other a bit more. I think you're going to see that in the upcoming episodes because it's okay to have a personality, you know, that doesn't always get along with everyone else.

Jael de PardoJAEL DE PARDO: I think it's great for the -- the fact that we all have different personalities and opinions because it makes for a lively debate. And it's definitely more interesting to watch people disagreeing rather than everybody is like, "Oh, yes, okay."

MARK STERN: Jael, you've been on Destination Truth. What's your view on this -- now there's a new group and how it compares to Josh's?

JAEL DE PARDO: Well, I loved being on Destination Truth.

JOSH GATES (FROM THE AUDIENCE): Yes, Jael. (Inaudible.)

(Laughter.)

JAEL DE PARDO: You scared me.

MARK STERN: You know what? He can't hurt you anymore, Jael. You can be as honest as you want.

JAEL DE PARDO: Well, I loved being on [Destination Truth] because it's all the adventure. We get to travel to some really exotic places. And it's rugged. We have some wild times just running around in the middle of the jungle at 2:00 in the morning. I put myself in situations that I never imagined I would be in. And on Fact or Faked I think it was a really smooth transition because we're looking for the same things. The thing that's different about Fact or Faked is that we actually get to strategize a bit more specifically because we have these experiments. So it's more planned out. It's more thought out. It's more scientific in the sense that we have this time that we have to put into these experiments.

MARK STERN: More collaborative, less of a dictatorship --

(Laughter.)

JAEL DE PARDO: Right.

MARK STERN: -- and totalitarian state. Not an egomaniacal kind of --

JAEL DE PARDO: Rather than just running from some wild cat that might be behind a tree.

BEN HANSEN: You get to sleep in a hotel more.

MARK STERN: Well, you guys go to Hawaii and Australia this new cycle; right?

BEN HANSEN: Yeah, we do.

JAEL DE PARDO: Yes.

BEN HANSEN: I used to live in Australia, so it was awesome to go back and to dive the Great Barrier Reef again. It's just an amazing adventure.

BILL MURPHY: I'm glad you're bringing that up too because if we're going to be traveling to some far-flung locations, what we experience there is different from when you have an American culture, because it seems like those roots, those superstitions, the cultural beliefs, maybe even religious leanings, all that plays into a belief system. And that affects people's perceptions. And so whether their belief is resulting in a manifestation of certain evidence or they're looking for the evidence and therefore capturing it, I'm not sure. But for us, it makes it more interesting because we do have to learn about how a local culture has evolved and what their beliefs are. So it's making the cases, I think, a little more interesting. At least it was in Hawaii for me.

JAEL DE PARDO: Yeah, that's true. One example is we just did a flying-humanoid case that was in Mexico. And people there are very superstitious and very religious, so there's definitely a cultural aspect that we have to contend with as well.

MARK STERN: Other questions?

QUESTION: What was the most unforgettable case you ever had, fact or faked? One you'll remember for the rest of your life.

Fact or FakedJAEL DE PARDO: Well, for me, it's one of our newer ones that hasn't aired. We were documenting the myth of the mermaid, and I actually got to get into a mermaid suit and go down to the bottom of the ocean. So I think that it shows that sometimes you have to go to very strange places to find evidence. And it could be the bottom of the ocean.

BEN HANSEN: She did a great job too. I think the male viewers will like the Jael as mermaid.

BILL MURPHY: I would say for me, it's likely going to be Arizona lights because that was one where our experiments were not totally successful. We were getting close to replicating the original video. But it was the field investigation side where we obtained our own evidence of some mysterious, very fast-moving light across the sky. And anybody who has seen that episode, those lights -- we didn't change the speed upon playback. What you're seeing is how fast these things were tracking across the sky. That was kind of cool because we left with our own evidence. And it seemed like there are UFOs in Arizona.

BEN HANSEN: For me, I already talked about the Indiana cemetery. But there's so many good cases that I love. It's really hard because I'm a big critic. I can see myself in your seat and blogging and talking about this online, and I see myself there. But one of the coolest things is how, for example, in this next run of shows we have, we're taking on some very controversial big cases. If you know anything about ufology and the big claims of certain people -- I don't want to give away too much -- but there's one case in particular we're taking on that I really had an open mind to this at first with this guy. But as I started researching and reading more about it, you know, you'll see my viewpoint really changes. And the show didn't start out being like we're going to take down the hoaxers and the fakers. And it's not about that. But it is satisfying when someone is really trying to add legitimate value to research and they're faking it and we're able to bring that out to people and say, "Look, this is real, this is not." So in sort of a roundabout way answering your question, look for a UFO case in Washington, and you'll know what I'm talking about.

BILL MURPHY: That also brings into what you were asking about disagreements in the situation room. Ben and I -- we weren't necessarily in agreement that is this what our mandate is on the show? Do we expose the hoaxers, or has it been just to replicate the videos? Being that we were replicating the videos was sort of like the safety net for us, or at least for me. We didn't really have to go after the people that were necessarily faking it. But if people are faking evidence onto a scale that becomes unacceptable, not just a little video, but has other ramifications, then maybe Ben's stance is the correct one, that you need to call the person out.

BEN HANSEN: Yep.

MARK STERN: Okay. Thank you very much. Thanks for being here, you guys.

BEN HANSEN: Thank you guys.

JAEL DE PARDO: Thank you.

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