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The Ghost in the Kitchen

Barry Karr

March 27, 2014

Recently a video has been making the rounds on the internet showing security camera video of a glass plate flying off the shelf of a store in New Hampshire. What causes the plate to fly across the room in unknown, but some “ghost experts” have chimed in identifying a 14 year-old-ghost girl and her father. The pair was allegedly run over by horses in the last century.

We posted the story to our Facebook page and soon after we received a comment from Robert Hyrum Hirschi:

Robert Hyrum Hirschi: As a vfx artist I could recreate this using practical fx or vfx. It'd take all of 15 minutes.

So, we asked him to go ahead, and this is the video you see above.

Later he volunteered to do another video and explain how he created the first one:

I made the original video very quickly to prove how easy it is to do this kind of effect.

It is a combination of two video clips and a couple of mattes. The clip with no bottle movement is the background video. The other video is the action of the bottle being pulled from the table by a piece of string taped to it.

Software is used to create a mask that only shows the bottle on the action video. The rest of what you see is the background video. The background video has no string. A couple of mattes are used to hide other movement and the static bottle. This process works very well and is a staple of the vfx industry.

On the second video I added another movement effect and explained how they are done.

The fact is this effect could be done a number of ways. I chose a string for two reasons - it's easy to mask the string out and it'll create the most realistic movement blurs and shadows.

Given time I could make a 3D model of the glass and place it in a 3D mapped rendition of that room with realistc shadows. I could make it dance.

This is high definition video at 29.97 frames per second.

I do vfx professionally but making an object appear to fly off a table in a low-res security cam video could be achieved by an amateur. It could be done using microfilament scotch-taped to the object for instance. It's only a few frames in grainy low-light. If this can be quickly achieved in HD it's not a stretch to be skeptical about the New Hampshire store video.

The Ghost in the Kitchen Explained

Now, of course, we are not saying that this is how the store video was made. We are not even saying that there is any trickery involved at all. We don’t know. Yet. It is important to remember that the quality of the video is so poor that it really could be anything. But we do feel that people should understand that the “ghost” explanation is the least likely of all and should not be brought out immediately at the drop of a plate.

Barry Karr

Barry Karr's photo

Barry Karr is the director of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.