This Spring, I am learning that I am going to be making a lot of appearances at a lot of paranormal conferences around the country. I am also being considered for an appearance in a television special about the world’s greatest hoaxes. When I chose to do this show back in 1997, I came in fully aware that the field I chose to investigate was full of hucksters, charlatans, sociopaths, and attention whores. My intention was to expose a lot of the fraud involved and along the way I did find stories that were not hoaxes or at least intended frauds.

People sometimes see things they think are supernatural and with great faith present the material. However, when a logical or prosaic explanation is given it is either accepted in disappointment or the explanation is taken with hostility.

Sometimes what I do can be compared to being a dumpster diver. Most of the time you find a lot of trash, and other times there are things that can be considered valuable.

I am noticing with complete discouragement television shows that are exploiting people’s belief in the paranormal. It has been said that 30 years ago people would not have dreamed that there would be television shows where grown men and women would go into some very scary places and document the existence of ghosts.

I have done the same thing and believe me there is most certainly unexplained events that happen when you go looking for haunts in some very dark and dangerous places.

I am often asked why I go through a spate of parapolitical and conspiracy theory shows instead of sticking with the paranormal all the time. My answer is two-fold. First, I tend to see the paranormal shows as dancing bear type shows. I use the term “dancing bear” as a colloquialism I picked up from an interview I read about Captain Kangaroo. The actor Bob Keeshan known for playing the captain said in an interview that no matter what they did on the TV show, whether it be the moose and the ping pong balls, or Mr. Green jeans, the kids always wanted to see “Dancing Bear.” So whenever there was a lull in the show, they would always call out dancing bear.

The other answer I give is that the paranormal stories are tricky and they take time to at least do some analysis and to weed out the faking and the embellishing.

I know that maybe there are ways to make the paranormal entertaining, but on the radio it is harder. For example, a Bigfoot sighting or even a UFO sighting is hard to present on the radio. They are visual but if there is a strange sound or an unusual howl, I will get right on it.

The Ground Zero show is also an entertaining show, and I like it to be inclusive. That is why sometimes shows dealing with psychics are also tricky because they may get everything wrong, and when people call to get their futures told to them, the others in the audience feel left out and so they are somewhat less inclusive.

If any guest with a paranormal claim is shown to be a fraud that also reflects on me and my staff. Details are overlooked, sources can make mistakes or try to spread disinformation and so this is why I always say that, I will honestly report as best I can solid information about the paranormal activities that happen around us.

In my home, we all watch the paranormal shows offered on cable. Many of the stars that show up in these ghost hunting shows I have either worked with or I know. However there are a lot of others I have never worked with, or met or even speak at the conventions and so I am very cynical about the investigators I don’t know or haven’t heard of.

These channels are full on dancing bear channels, where shows intentionally demonstrate the “badness” of dabbling in witchcraft, and the goodness of putting away the Ouija board so the pointy eared demon won’t show up at dinner. There is also the Hillbillies hunting for bigfoot and instead caging a chupacabra that looks like a Frank Oz creation, and having it unintentionally released from his prison by Bigfoot.

I kid you not, this actually happened on an episode of the TV show Mountain Monsters where it was theorized that that Bigfoot uses the chupacabra as a “scouting dog.”

Now I know that this passes for entertainment, but I also worry that it also passes as forgery, or intended fraud and if the program does not state that it is entertainment and sells products with advertising, that it may border on consumer fraud.

Not only that the show is set in West Virginia which makes me wonder if it gives the impression that toothless bearded Hillbillies roam the country side looking for men wearing hairy suits in that state.

I am sure it also hurts those who are serious researchers, and I being near Bigfoot Country know a lot of them and most of them are critical thinkers and love the land and respect the wildlife.

Some may say that this type of entertainment is similar to Exhibition Wrestling, however even the executives of the WWF , namely the World Wrestling Federation to WWE an acronym for World Wrestling Entertainment.

Although in all truth the change was mainly caused by an unfavorable ruling in its dispute with the World Wide Fund for Nature regarding the “WWF” acronym, the company noted it provided an opportunity to emphasize its focus on entertainment.

This is why later they just changed to the WWE without applying an acronym because it was eventually seen as an entertainment network reflecting WWE’s global entertainment expansion away from the ring with the ultimate goal of acquiring entertainment companies and putting a focus on television, live events, and film production.

In some places, the WWF was not allowed to wrestle unless they admitted to it being totally entertainment and not real wrestling. In fact, there was a term for the suspension of disbelief called, “Kayfabe.” Kayfabe is the portrayal of staged events within the industry as “real” or “true,” Kayfabe is actually carnival slang for “protecting the secrets of the business.”

When I first started doing Ground Zero, I was thinking there was a lot of Kayfabe going down especially with some of the paranormal experts that found themselves on late night talk shows.

I decided that If there was any Kayfabe in the paranormal business I did not want to be a part of any of it. I was asked to run a disclaimer when I first started Ground Zero. I refused and said “If I have to fake paranormal events there is no reason for me to do the show.”

However, I seriously revisited the idea when the well known alleged footage of an Alien autopsy surfaced. This was the first so called alien proof that most investigators, myself included were fooled into believing was real.

The 17-minute black and white film surfaced in the 1990s, but in 2006 Santilli admitted the film was not authentic but rather a staged reconstruction of footage he claimed to have viewed in 1992, which had deteriorated and become unusable by the time he made his film. He claimed that a few frames from the original were embedded in his film, but he never specified which ones. In 1995, before being exposed as a hoax, the film was sold to television networks and broadcast in more than 33 countries.

The Fox Television Network aired the “Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction” special with Jonathan Frakes as host. The special was aired twice on Fox and each time there was in excess of 17 million viewers. Time Magazine compared it to the Zapruder film, saying that no other film has had so much intense debate since the movie that showed Kennedy’s brains being blown out in Dallas. This was something I was told gave it credibility, all the attention, all of the mainstream coverage it had to be real I thought.

Now looking back, many people were fooled and there were some people who believed that the film, its producers and Fox television should be sued or at least face jail time for blatant forgery and consumer fraud.

It was not only bad for those who reported the story; it skewered a lot of the credibility of any UFO investigations.

The alien context of the hoax connected to the UFO phenomenon had unfortunately dogged any objective analysis of so called evidence that there have been sightings that are remarkable and worth a second look.

In the 1960s UFO material was actually difficult to get a hold of. Now we see it everywhere. In the 1960’s there were a few reference books collecting the most famous sightings and photographs. There were a few stories of people taking rides on Saucers or stories of celebrities being taken to military coolers where locked in deep freeze were aliens or body parts of these beings.

The term “flying saucer” has evolved in the communal mythology to be UFO, a term that originally meant Unidentified Flying Object. But now it seems to be stuck as a marketing label on everything mysterious which includes, the Chupacabra, crop circles, mutilated cattle, Men in Black, government conspiracies, alien abductions, genetic manipulation, and everything else that seems to have no definitive answer.

I wish we had a looking glass where we could go back in time to 1950’s where Harry Truman admitted that there were flying saucers. Were flying saucers were seen buzzing over the nations’ capital. I would love to hear those stories of how President Eisenhower took a ride in a space craft and how Jackie Gleason was shown aliens in refrigerators on a military base.

These stories are seldom given the spotlight because they sound so outrageous. However many of them were even sealed in death bed confessions and those who know firsthand the testimonies of these witnesses are either dead or dying.

After doing the Children of Roswell show with Donald Schmitt, and hearing members of families affected by the Roswell crash in 1947 calling into my show it hit me. These are real people that have had real experiences that won’t be heard by the mainstream because there have been so many instances where UFO footage and alien footage have shown up on You Tube intentionally being hoaxed or faked for click bait.

With the arrival of the PC and the internet, CGI or Computer Generated Imagery you can make your own UFO film or picture relatively easy.

What all this means is that now pictures of UFO sightings and alien footage especially those put on You Tube or on websites have now been reduced trivial pap that in most cases will not be taken seriously. It is now easy for anyone to fake or semi-convincing UFO photo. With future software and special effects packages for the PC, we can expect to see UFO hoax photos that are hard to prove as fakes.

This means that unless you can absolutely confirm a photo’s origin, by providing a negative or other proof of documentation where you can prove authenticity you can’t believe anything that you see in a supposed UFO photo any longer.

Even getting documentation on your cell phone is not enough.

Android applications like UFO Photo Prank, UFO Camera, UFO Photo Bomb, and Camera360 have gained notoriety recently, as examples of hoaxed UFO photos been published by You Tube mainstream media outlets around the world.

Ohio’s WMFD News once featured the story of a man who said he captured a UFO in a picture he took with his tablet while vacationing in California. However, the UFO image is one that comes with the Camara360 photo app.

Tom Young from Mansfield, Ohio told news reporters that he was visiting friends in San Carlos, California, and decided to take a picture of the beautiful view from their balcony. When he looked at the picture later, he says he was surprised to find a classically shaped flying saucer.

He told WMFD News that he doesn’t believe in extra-terrestrials. He thinks the disc shaped object is advanced technology built right here on Earth. Well it was constructed by a phone app arguably advanced technology able to fake such photos. When reporters contacted Young about the hoax, he remained firm that his photograph is of a bona fide UFO, but said he would check the photo again to make sure he didn’t “accidentally” use the app.

Needless to say, the confrontation was awkward.

This leads to a very important question, if a UFO photo, alien photo, Chupacabra photo, Bigfoot photo, ghost photo or footage is proven to be hoaxed with the intention of committing fraud should the perpetrator be prosecuted?

Wouldn’t it fall under the definition of forgery? Forgery is the process of making, adapting, or imitating objects, statistics, or documents, with the intent to deceive. Different countries have different legislation for sub-categories of forgery, but to most it is considered a serious offense.

Hoax and Fraud, of course, are two things that the public has a hard time defining.

Our culture describes many different activities as hoaxes and blur the lines a bit if a mistake is made or something is unwittingly offered as misinformation. For example if I accidentally report something that is not true it is not defined a hoax. It is a mistake and must be retracted. Newspapers, TV news and print media often give retraction for errors in reporting.

We describe misleading publicity stunts, false bomb threats, scientific frauds, business scams, and bogus political claims as hoaxes.

One common thread that runs through all these activities are they’re all deceptive acts, or lies. But not just any deceptive act qualifies as a hoax. A small white lie, such as when an employee falsely calls in sick to take a day off work, doesn’t qualify as a hoax. Nor do most forms of criminal deception, such as identity theft, counterfeiting, or perjury. To become a hoax there has to be something extra attached to it. It must command the attention of the court of public opinion. It is a deliberately deceptive act that has succeeded in capturing the attention of the public. If the hoax is used to gain monetary gain and continues to mislead because of that gain, this is where we tread into fraud territory. Fraud is a criminal act. Frauds are perpetrated simply to make money. If the method of acquiring financial return generates a broad enough public impact, or is unusual enough to capture the public’s imagination then there could be enough evidence to make a case for fraud.

The sheer volume of hoaxes and fraud in the field of Ufology is staggering. There are those attempting to suppress and obfuscate the truth, and even more simply attempting to profit from the tremendous interest by manufacturing hoaxes in order to make a profit.

Through the You Tube partner program and Google ad sense a UFO or paranormal hoax can generate a lot of money monetizing the video posted. Depending on the amount of money and the ability to capture the imagination of the public it appears that those who intentionally deceive on You Tube are committing fraud.

You Tube even has a policy about Scams in their policy rules:

“Some users create content which attempts to trick others for their own financial gain. Content that deliberately tries to mislead users for financial gain may be removed, and in some cases strikes may be issued to the uploader. Please be wary of claims that seem too good to be true, as they likely are.”

Are Strikes enough? Is removal enough?

I know that we would have to somehow determine intent that would be for the courts to decide.

When things are placed on the internet, many people forget that what they are doing is publishing. While there is freedom of the press, and freedom of speech there are laws about intentionally committing fraud for financial gain.

Back in 2009, two New Jersey men who staged a UFO hoax were forced to pay fines and do community service.

A judge fined Chris Russo, of Morris Plains, and Joe Rudy, of Chester Township, $250 each and ordered them to perform 50 hours of community service.

Authorities say the pair triggered a flurry of 911 calls when they lit road flares tied to helium balloons and released them in central New Jersey. This tied up the phone lines and police dispatchers. The men said they did it to trick people who believe in UFOs. They posted details of their exploits on a Web site on April Fools’ Day.

The prosecutor charged them with disorderly conduct, saying the balloons could have interfered with air traffic and posed a potential fire hazard.

If there were cases that were looked at and were actually presented in a court of law, perhaps we would see more care in what is posted on You Tube or hoaxed for attention.

While aliens so far have not stood trial for crimes against humanity, human crimes that can mislead and even be an affront to national security should tried in the courts, which can at least bring justice to the alienated.