Talking Infrasound on "William Shatner's Weird or What?"

Back in April, I was interviewed about infrasound for season two of a show called either "Weird or What? with William Shatner" or "William Shatner's Weird or What?", depending on where you look.  The show is produced out of Toronto by Cineflix, and they recently sent me a DVD copy of "Episode 17 - Paranormal Mysteries", in which I appeared; it looks like this episode started airing on History Television in Canada on Halloween. History Television is apparently not related to the US History Channel, but it does run some of the same shows, and claims to be, "the number one source for entertaining and engaging historical programming", which, "captivates Canadian audiences with gripping stories about the people and events that have shaped our world." 

The producers contacted me on a referral by my friend Sarah Angliss, who, with another friend, the great psychologist Richard Wiseman, had done some fascinating infrasound research, which inspired me to do my own research on infrasound last year. As is apparently often the case with these shows, the producers already had an overall narrative in place, and were looking to me to tell a piece of that story for them. I had never been on one of these kinds of shows before, and I figured that--as long as I refused to say anything I didn't believe to be true--it would be an interesting experience (even, sadly, though Shatner doesn't go out to do the interviews).  So, I said yes.  

A Cineflix researcher asked if I thought that infrasound could have caused some of the phenomena a woman named Jackie Hernandez reported back 1989 in San Pedro, California. I had never heard of Hernandez, but googling around, I found a lot of paranormal sites with breathless recountings of the events, and also several versions of this video, from a show called "Phenomenon: The Lost Archives" which aired sometime in the 1990's. On that video, you can see actual footage shot in the Hernandez home, and an interview with Hernandez herself. It's too bad that Cineflix didn't (or couldn't?) use this original footage, because I think it helps explain the realities of the situation better than Weird or What's re-enactments, with telegenic actors shot in some sort of rustic cabin in Canada standing in for San Pedro. 

The researcher called before the taping, and we went over a list of detailed questions about the Hernandez case. I was a bit nervous on the day of the interview, because--especially for someone who has spent his entire life backstage--it's always weird sitting in front of a camera. But the crew was very professional and focused, guiding me through multiple repetitions of my answers until I addressed all of the points the producers wanted to cover. Ironically for a show about infrasound, we also had to stop and restart many times because of the intense low frequencies caused by passing subway trains underneath the basement of my school building, where we recorded the interview.

Watching the finished episode, I feel like the producers treated me fairly, and I was surprised how little they actually edited me, leaving in tact some pretty long (and somewhat stumbling) statements. A few specific points about the program for those of you who can see it:

  • They say that I believe, "... the Jackie Hernandez case can be explained by [infrasound]".  Actually, I never said that. I do think that some of the reported phenomena, like seeing apparitions, could possibly be caused by exposure to Infrasound. Obviously, some of the other things reported (the "hanging") would need other explanations.
  • That's Rational Acoustics' SMAART analysis program on the monitors behind me.
  • Richard Wiseman has the Tandy and Lawrence research reports here.
  • Here's the "Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory" report titled, "Mechanical Resonant Frequency of the Human Eye In Vivo" from August 1976.
  • At the end of my segment, they imply that I think "my" theory about infrasound could explain "human plasma" coming from the walls, but I never addressed that issue at all.

Since I was only on the program to talk, narrowly, about infrasound, that's the area that I'll limit my comments to here, and if anyone wants to comment on what I actually said in the program, feel free.  I didn't investigate or research the other reported events, so I can't really comment on them, although in general, I'm definitely with the great Carl Sagan in believing that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." And that's especially true for a "haunting", since if the Hernandez events could be proven to be true, they would entirely change our understanding of the physical world. That would be pretty cool, but for me, I don't feel like any of the paranormal investigators in the program provided evidence that would meet that "extraordinary" criteria.  If better evidence existed, I would imagine "world-renowned parapsychologist" Barry Taff, who spearheaded this investigation, would by now certainly have claimed the million dollars offered by James Randi to anyone "who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event."

Future airings in Canada are listed here, and it's possible this might end up being aired in the US, since season one of the show apparently aired on the Discovery Channel, with Shatner's lead ins replaced, for some political reason, by Peter MacNeill

Let me know if you see the show!