The best combination since peanut butter and chocolate?
Looking for a little paranormal with your comic book news? If you can handle a more skeptical slant on it, the Geeks and Ghosts podcast might be for you.
For two years and almost 300 episodes, Philadelphia’s Kenny Biddle and his co-host Lou have tackled all there is to know about pop culture, with a slice of the weird on the side. But while he fights for the good guys now, Biddle used to be on the Dark Side.
AiPT! recently talked to the ghost photo expert to find out how he turned the corner, and how he uses his experience as a “ghost hunter” to educate others.
AiPT!: What got you into paranormal investigating to begin with?
Biddle: I think it’s like pretty much everyone else that gets into it. I’ve had an interest since before I can remember. As a little kid, I was always fascinated with, like, In Search Of; love that TV series. I loved books, the few that you could find at the time. We’re talking the early ’70s, so there wasn’t that much. I went to the public library, and I went to Catholic school, and you know there really wasn’t much of the paranormal in that library.
AiPT!: Were you a believer at first?
Biddle: Yes. I started out as a ghost hunter. I founded a ghost hunting team here, back in ’96, ’97. That’s when I got married, and I also got a brand new computer and got onto this new thing called “the internet,” which was all the rage. I started looking up different sites. Of course the first site I looked up was DC Comics, ’cause, ya know — Superman. I’m a huge fan.
Then I started looking into ghosts, I found a local group, joined a group, saw the few websites that dealt with it. Yeah, for a couple years there, I was ghost hunter. I went around with the teams, I had my EMF detector, I had my 35 mm camera and a flashlight, and that’s what I did.
AiPT!: And did you find anything?
Biddle: Well, you know … (sighs) that’s really a question of perspective because, at the time? Yes, I found a ton of s--t! I was finding — I’m so embarrassed to say it — I found orbs, I found ecto[plasm], I found vortexes, and occasionally this figure, and all kinds of weird s--t. I was very ignorant and naive, so yeah, I was finding that stuff. I believed that when the EMF meter started to spike up between 2 and 7 milligauss, that was it! I had something! This was so cool! Every noise that happened, every corner-of-the-eye movement that I caught — that was a ghost.
AiPT!: What made you start questioning it all?
Biddle: Well, I started really getting into photography. I really liked taking pictures. I didn’t realize that I was getting a lot of the same stuff. And everyone else was getting a lot of the same stuff. It really was — I’ve gotta give credit to Benjamin Radford, ’cause he had commented on something I did … he questioned me on some of my pictures, and I gave him, to be honest, the same bullshit answers that every ghost hunter gives, to explain that their pictures are real. And he questioned me some more, and I realized I couldn’t answer his questions.
That was a big shock. So I really started looking into photography more; learning how to do it, learning how to work my camera, pressing all the buttons, seeing what the settings did. Why did I get this anomaly, and could I get it again, without going to an alleged haunted location. And I did. I kept getting it over and over, and it was like, “I was an idiot; I know how I did this now.”
I wanted to learn more, so I did, and I actually started working as a photographer, doing weddings, doing family portraits, special events. The more I learned, the more I realized I was doing stuff wrong. I actually started researching the things I was doing and put together a self-published book that was called Orbs are Dust. A friend of mine sent a copy of it to Ben Radford, and he loved it, and he actually used it as a reference in his Scientific Paranormal Investigation book.
It just grew from there. It just went crazy, because I started learning more about the skeptical side of things, the science side of things. I wanted to know more about critical thinking, I wanted to know more about logic and reason, how to argue, how to really look into these claims from a more scientific point of view, even though I wasn’t a scientist.
AiPT!: It seems like you care about bringing this knowledge that you’ve gotten to other people, and maybe even the kinds of people you used to work with. What made you want to do the Geeks and Ghosts podcast? Is that sort of an outreach effort?
Biddle: That’s more of a separate thing. When I do the skepticism stuff, when I go to conferences — that’s really a lot of the science and skeptical part of me. Geeks and Ghosts came from an idea — me and my co-host Lou, I met him a few years ago at a paranormal conference … we talked, we became friends after that. We both actually listened to another podcast, called Strange Frequencies Radio. We’d both listen to that, we’d both be in the chatrooms every week, and we’d go back and forth. Like we do now, we’d argue like an old couple, but we’re good friends.
And that kind of developed into, we would sit here once a week, and be on Skype, and we would talk. I would do my work, my writing and my research … and he would work on model tanks, and we’d have the Skype video up. There were times when we had the Skype video up, 20 minutes, and nothing was said …
And then we were getting into really cool discussions. We’d talk about movies, we’d talk about comics, we’d talk about some science, because he’s still more on the believing side. He’s straddling the fence now — I’ve kind of dragged him over a little, so he’s got one leg over the fence, on my side. But we’d talk about Bigfoot, UFOs, ghosts, aliens, all kinds of stuff like that, and also toys … Then one day it just came up, “Should we do a podcast?”
AiPT!: What’s the flow on the show kind of like? What kinds of things do you go over?
Biddle: We go over everything and anything. We both have our separate likes and dislikes. He’s a big Star Trek fan, I’m a big Star Wars fans … He also really likes Bigfoot. He LOVES looking for Bigfoot, so he brings up the really s----y Bigfoot videos of the week, and then he laughs and loves it, while I sit here, shaking my head, and [I] scream about how fake it looks.
There really is no flow. It flows on its own. We always show off toys that we got that week. If a celebrity passed away, we talk about ’em, and say our goodbyes. If a movie comes out that we happened to see — if both of us saw it, GREAT. We usually argue on if it’s good or not … and then whatever comes up that week.
AiPT!: So you yell at the terrible Bigfoot videos; do you also yell at the terrible paranormal TV shows on these days?
Biddle: Oh my God. We don’t really watch them, because they are so horrible. My usual response is, “I only watch them when I have to.” And that’s for research. If I’m researching a certain device or a person, especially a location …
We haven’t really argued too much about it, and when it does come up, Lou is very sarcastic, and he will definitely take the side of the pseudo-ghost hunter and say he loves it, and there should be more shows, even though he doesn’t mean it. He does it to egg me on.
AiPT!: Do you still go out with other, maybe believing paranormal investigators?
Biddle: Yeah, I still go out. It’s not as often as I used to, but I go out when I’m on a particular subject, when I’m trying to research something, or I need to get data. I need to observe what ghost hunters are doing. I don’t want to just sit here — I’m not one of those guys that will sit here and write about ghost hunting teams from the comfort of my chair … I need to get out there and see what these teams are doing, to see if they’re really doing the things that I think they’re doing.
So, I usually go to the pay-to-play things, where it’s $10 or $20 to go to a public ghost hunt. I will go and stand in the corner. Literally stand in the corner of the room, with my camera and tripod, and I’ll record what’s going on, and just watch. See how people investigate, see how they react to alleged events going on. I love to watch how they operate the equipment, to see if they’re actually operating it right …
Ghost hunters will come in with these devices, and I’ll ask ’em how it works. And I’ll play dumb, just let them explain it to me. For the most part, they don’t know how it works. So, from my perspective, that’s good research for me.
Kenny Biddle recently took his ghost photo-busting to the Central New York Skeptics of Syracuse, and will host a workshop titled “Explaining Paranormal Photography and Video” at CSICon, the official convention of the Skeptical Inquirer magazine, on October 26. The Geeks and Ghosts podcast is available on YouTube.