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Was There a Ghost at Pocatello High School?

by Mike Weaver

January 14, 2015

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Donate A video posted on December 19th of last year has been reported by several news outlets to show a ghost at Idaho's Pocatello High School. Some of the most entertaining reports come from the New York Daily News, Inquisitr, and Q13, Seattle's local Fox affiliate. The video was posted by on the YouTube channel of the school newspaper, The Chieftain. Finally, and they published an edited video report of the alleged ghost sighting. Let's take a look!

First of all, take a look at the student newspaper's video report:

I rather liked the report. The students made a "spooky" human interest report, with good effort. Of course, I'm disappointed that there were no skeptical or scientific perspectives offered. The piece is mostly students relating paranormal or spooky stories about the school with little detail on the ghost video itself.

Happily, the newspaper did upload their "raw" footage for us to view in a separate posting:

Unfortunately, it is a cellphone video of the screen showing the surveillance video. This really limits our ability to analyze the video with any detail. Do pay attention to the system operator seeking the video back and forth in time. The video on the monitor is not an unbroken sequence in time. As usual, I've done some screen captures and highlighted areas of interest.

Firstly, pay attention to the seek bar, which I highlighted above. The "ghost" will appear in the center image, also highlighted. This frame sets the scene.

The ghost's appearance occurs during a time where the lights were cutting in and out, perhaps due to a power failure. You can see many of the cameras are black. I had thought, at first, that the cameras were cutting out, or the video recorder had lost the data, however, as shown by the red arrow, the lighted exit sign in the top-center camera stays illuminated during the flickering. Some of the discussion I've seen in comment threads centers around the flickering lights as a sign of the paranormal.

Out of curiosity, I took at look at the weather almanac for Pocatello, ID on December 19th from the Weather Underground. According to the almanac, Pocatello was having a storm on that day, with rain and winds gusting up to nearly 30 MPH. It is not unlikely that the storm was causing a power disruption. I attempted to find historic blackout information for the area with limited results. The BlackOut Tracker at EATON shows an outage on December 14th due to human error at the hydroelectric plant, but nothing on the 19th. I can't confirm that a blackout occurred on the same day that the surveillance video was recorded. It is a likely reason for the lighting problems shown in the video, however.

At around 1:26 in the video, we see our "ghost":

Here are two frames showing the anomaly, as best as I could capture them. The "ghost" is just a lighter line that tracks from left to center briefly, seemingly from the doorway left of the frame. The line runs all the way up out of frame to the top. I do not know what it is, however, it doesn't strike me as being a ghost. It's much easier to see when the video is in motion, though it's easy to miss even then.

It seems to be fairly thin and very out of focus, which is causing it to seem translucent in the frame. I suspect some sort of string or perhaps a spider's web hanging from the ceiling above the camera. The image strikes me as an item very close to the lens, which is quite common in these cases. Given the activity with the lights and possible power issues, it could even be an artifact of the recording system or the camera, perhaps a tracking artifact (as a colleague suggested).

It's a shame that the video quality is so poor, given that we're looking at a cellphone video of a screen playing the video, which itself is but one of nine in the display.

Take a look and see what you think!

Be well.

by Mike Weaver

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