The Guardian's Andrew Pulver has this "first look" at George Clooney's adaptation of Jon Ronson's "The Men Who Stare at Goats," which premieres at the Venice Film Festival, and is set to open wide this fall. The film centers on a U.S. army unit that investigates (and seems to believe in) psychic powers.
That's Impossible! a new series on the History Channel, features an interesting episode called Invisibility Cloaks, which includes a discussion of the contributions of British magician Jasper Maskelyne. The episode first aired July 7 and will re-air on July 25th. Mr. Maskelyne and his assistants in the "Magic Gang," formally the A Force, camouflaged the Egyptian city of Alexandria and the Suez Canal in order to protect them from German bombers during the Second World War.
But Richard Stokes challenges this view of Maskelyne's work.
That "Men Who Stare At Goats" movie may be nearing a distribution deal, according to The Hollywood Reporter. George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, and Jeff Daniels star in the pic, about the Army's search to pin down paranormal powers, documented in Jon Ronson's really funny book of the same name.
Here's an update on the filming of that movie based on Jon Ronson's The Men Who Stare at Goats, the account of those military types obsessed with the paranormal. George Clooney is starring (not staring), and producing, and Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, and Ewan McGregor have also signed on. I have to say that this flick is one that I'm looking forward to seeing.
I happened to be flipping through the channels last night (yes, I know, we clearly don't have enough to do at our house) and came across the latest episode of Ghosthunters, that show in which the members of TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society), the plumbers-by-day, paranormal-investigators-by-night bunch go out and search locations to see if they can find evidence of haunting activity. The group was discussing some of its more interesting and memorable times, and happened to mention the invitation it had gotten from the folks at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to come in and check out reports of, um, incorporeal volunteers hanging out in certain buildings there.
Now, that caught my attention. Wright-Patterson AFB? A government facility? And not just any government facility, but the Air Force base that had taken delivery of the Roswell crash debris? Hmmm. Verry interresting, as Arte Johnson would say.
As it turns out, the visit was not just for ghost hunting. It was also a recruiting tool.
The TAPS members themselves said the Air Force monitored them to make certain they weren't wandering too closely to any locations where they weren't supposed to be, and this was done by staff who were already on base, being paid anyway. Administrators have discretion to make decisions in matters involving the running of their facilities. And the costs here involved in shepherding the TAPS folks here around Wright-Patterson were de minimus. According to reports, part of the reason that these specific ghost hunters were invited is because one of the base's employees, Carolyn Kugle, who says she has sensed something paranormal going on at Wright-Patt, is also a fan of Ghost Hunters.
So, as it turns out, from the Air Force's point of view, maybe this wasn't so much a hunt for the paranormal as it was for paratroopers (yes, I know those are Army types; I just like the alliteration). Of course, remember this is the same military that spent time staring at goats in an effort to try to get them to keel over dead (sorry, that was the Army again). I certainly understand that the Air Force might think looking for recruits amid the audience of a popular tv program like Ghost Hunters might pay off. That's actually sort of an interesting idea, if it pans out. On the other hand, is there a correlation between people in the target demographic who watch the show and people who are likely to sign up? That is, of the people who watch the show (and presumably, take it somewhat seriously--otherwise they aren't likely to be watching it every week and likely to catch it the week this episode airs), are any significant number likely to be the sort who would sign up for military service? And are those the sorts of people one wants in the military? Yes, I know, I watch the show sometimes, but I watch it for a specific purpose. And I'm not in the target audience. Still, the show would presumably expose the idea to a few folks who might not otherwise have thought about the Air Force as a career, so I suppose the idea is "nothing ventured, nothing gained."
What exactly were the ghosthunters looking for? According to a press release from Rachel Castle, 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs, the TAPS folks came in to "investigate three buildings where workers have reported phenomena which they cannot explain such as hearing footsteps, voices and seeing apparitions - specifically one of a little boy in building 219 and one of an older woman in building 70." The TAPS folks spent three nights on base in January of this year. What did they find? "Jason and Grant sit with Col. Ryan and Rachel Castle to review their methodology and their findings....The flashlight footage was a big moment for them as was the tapping. Rachel, upon hearing that five entities claim the Arnold House, decides she likes being in Building 70. While none of the entities at the base are malevolent, Grant notes that they (sic) clearly built Wright-Patterson around a haunted house, the Arnold House, which preceded the Air Force on the location."
The Air Force gives the team a tour in a C-5 cargo plane (I suppose honored guests usually get this kind of tour) and then Steve, one of the group who's afraid to fly, gets to try out a flight simulator.
Did the Air Force endorse a belief in the paranormal because of the show? Doubtful. I don't see endorsement just because some members may have appeared here, even in uniform, and the show was filmed on the premises. Did the Air Force folks do anything "wrong" here? Highly unlikely. They didn't spend any additional money on this, they allowed those of their employees and service personnel, who are genuinely concerned about the paranormal, to have their suspicions about hauntings investigated, and they used the opportunity to do some recruiting. Not a bad idea.
But if one of the goals were to investigate seriously the question of hauntings at Wright-Patterson, because employees and service members are concerned about them, then I'd suggest a repeat investigation. The scientific method involves retesting. Let's do that, with other investigators. Let's form a team including, for example, Dr. Joe Nickell, or Benjamin Radford, or Dr. Michael Shermer. Let's throw in some magicians for good measure. I think these folks might do this for free, although I can't speak for them. In the alternative, some foundation might sponsor the investigation. Heck, I'll bone up on ghost-hunting, and come up and check out the place with them. I ain't afraida no ghosts, and I haven't been to the Dayton area in years.
BTW, Wright-Patterson AFB isn't the only base at which ghosts have been reported. Consider this story about ghosts at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas.