When we left last week, York had just been pronounced "The Most Haunted City in Europe" by the Ghost Research Foundation International in 2002, & were apparently in the running for the global "Most Haunted" accolade. According to a further article published on the BBC News website on the 9th of August 2002, "Parapsychologist Jason Karl, president of the Ghost Research Foundation International (GRFI), said the city has more spooks than any other." However, serious questions were already being asked throughout the global paranormal fraternity as to the legitimacy of York's two "Most Haunted" awards in England & Europe - had every English & European paranormal expert provided solid data on their respective regions, & worked collaboratively to definitively "prove" that York in England, above all other cities, possessed the greatest number of hauntings?? The answer to this question was best summed up in the very first sentence of the above BBC News article - "York has been named Europe's most haunted city by a ghost expert." So...no collaboration occurred...no poll was carried out...no transparency existed...both accolades were awarded purely on the say-so of one man - Jason Karl.
Without leaving to much too the imagination, only 10 months later, York came through with the goods yet again in the global accolades...miraculously uncovering a further 364 hauntings to push their 2000 total of 140 ghosts to a staggering 504 ghosts by July 2003! Once again, parapsychologist Jason Karl, under the auspices of the Ghost Research Foundation International, awarded the title amidst international media hype, & in turn named the runner-up cities...which is where our story takes an amazing turn, as Brisbane finally appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, on the "Most Haunted" list. It was at this point that Brisbane's "2nd Most Haunted" rating hit its first MAJOR snag. If you remember back to last week's article, I pointed out a crucial detail that was published in the Sunday Mail on the 13th of October 2002 - "He ["Jack" Sim] has 250 Brisbane sites where ghosts have been reported, on a database." Keeping that rough figure in mind, let's have a further look at the totals in the runner-up stakes, as interpreted by Jason Karl & the Ghost Research Foundation International...
On the 12th of July 2003, the Irish Independent ran one of the first articles [actual scan here] on York's third consecutive "Most Haunted" award, & provided figures for the top three place-getters. According to the news piece, "Intensive research into ghostly events around the globe found the north of England city had a total of 504 recorded haunted sightings compared to 300 in Los Angeles, the second most haunted city in the survey, & 225 in Brisbane, Australia." Wait...WHAT?!? Brisbane was ranked in third place, not second?? A month later, on the 29th of August 2003, the BBC website ran another article on York's award, stating, "Intensive research by the Ghost Research Foundation International (GRFI) of major cities around the world including Los Angeles, Paris and Brisbane has drawn the conclusion that York is the most haunted city in the World - with a total of 504 recorded hauntings!" In a box alongside the web article, further numbers were provided on other city's rankings - 250 in Brisbane, 230 in Chicago, 120 in New York...Los Angeles' ranking was absent, which gave the impression that Brisbane might just have been ranked second, although the prior Irish Independent article had already let the cat out of the bag on Brisbane's real ranking!
Ultimately though, the Ghost Research Foundation International was to fold soon after, & parapsychologist Jason Karl's reputation was to be seriously called into question. Ironically, at the same time York was being issued with its 2002 "Most Haunted in Europe" award, Jason Karl was starring in the first season of British TV's "Most Haunted" series - & not surprisingly, Jason's history was being publicly exposed. Born as Jason Smith, he had made his television debut on a children's game show called Knightmare in 1988. "After studying media, photography, television and film at North Oxfordshire School of Arts & Technical School in Banbury, he moved into variety work and gained his British Actors Equity Card whilst performing various interactive live theatre shows at Alton Towers and Chessington World of Adventures for The Tussaud’s Group." After the first season of "Most Haunted," Jason was accused of being an actor playing a parapsychologist - a qualification he did not hold, nor ever has done. To this day, Jason Karl has earned a reputation for tacky ghost game shows & attempting to sell private "ghost hunts" on eBay. After his personal demise, & that of the GRFI, history would likely also forget about the "Most Haunted" awards...or would it??
Jump forward six years to the 3rd of February 2009, when, out of the blue, an article appeared in the City News entitled Brisbane claims "spooky city" title. The write-up claimed that Brisbane was one of the most haunted cities in the world, "according to new book The International Directory of Haunted Places and website www.hauntedplaces.com." We already know that the International Directory of Haunted Places was not new, & had been published nine years previously - this news piece was nothing more than a simple rehash of the article run in the Sunday Mail in October 2002 (detailed in last week's Part I)...but why on earth was this material being dug up again after so many years, & who was behind it?? Eight months later, the answer became apparent - in the October marketing lead-up to the peak ghost tour date of Halloween, a self-penned advertisement for Ghost Tours appeared on business promotion website Services Recommended - for the very first time, the claim that "National Geographic voted Brisbane the 2nd most haunted city in the world" finally surfaced. It was clear that "Jack" Sim was responsible, but none of it made any sense - Brisbane had been designated "3rd Most Haunted" by the GRFI six years previously, & National Geographic had played no part in the ranking??
The most amazing revelation in this saga, however, came one year later in 2010, once again in the October marketing lead-up to the peak ghost tour date of Halloween - on the 28th of October 2010, Channel 10's 7pm Project ran with a segment on Brisbane's "2nd Most Haunted" status...not surprisingly, "Jack" Sim & his tours featured predominantly. Ironically enough, the 7pm Project was quick to add on their website that, "Local historian Jack Sim, who runs Brisbane Ghost Tours, says Brisbane was voted the world's second-most haunted town by no less an authority than National Geographic. (At this stage, 7PM's Interweb correspondent has been unable to track down the original list. In the meantime we'll take his ["Jack's"] word for it, like we took that Charlie Chaplin time traveller video dude's)." So, it was clear that even the 7pm Project were highly suspicious of the claim, but run with it they did...& almost instantly, as though the "2nd Most Haunted" moniker had now been completely validated purely on the authority of the 7pm Project, a ridiculous banner was posted on the Ghost Tours website (located at the top of this article, & also [HERE] on the Ghost Tours website in full form).
7pm Project's Segment on Brisbane's "2nd Most Haunted" claim...
However, "Jack's" publicity stunt clearly backfired, as residents across Brisbane began to heavily question Ghost Tours about National Geographic's involvement. 2 days after the 7pm Project's segment, The Boggo Blog published the first article questioning the legitimacy of the claim, a topic they again followed up six months later in April 2011 (I strongly advise reading both of these accounts). Needless to say, "Jack" Sim & Ghost Tours were silent on the matter...however, by May 2011, posts began to appear on the Ghost Tours Facebook page, again requesting clarification. After ongoing pressure, Ghost Tours finally posted a statement on the 30th of May 2011:
Without giving too much away just yet, one detail in the statement was very, very clear - the only time Brisbane had been mentioned in conjunction with Chicago for haunted potential, was in the 2003 web article published by the BBC, where Los Angeles' ranking had been omitted & it "appeared" as though Brisbane had been designated "2nd Most Haunted" by the GRFI! So it was now clear - "Jack" Sim's entire marketing campaign was teetering on a knife-edge, based purely on a single misleading article published seven years beforehand on account of a GRFI award. So, what of this mystery National Geographic article?? According to Ghost Tours' statement, a scan of said article, which had apparently drawn on GRFI's findings, would be posted to once & for all set the record straight...yet four more months passed, without a scan in sight, amidst further ongoing pressure by the public. On the 12th of September 2011, Ghost Tours yet again posted an official statement:
After being backed into a corner for non-disclosure, Ghost Tours clearly contradicted their statement published over 3 months beforehand - the company now needed to locate a copy of the article to scan (which they seemed to possess 3 months earlier), & the scan would be posted publicly in the very near future to alleviate any concerns about false advertising on the company's part (the article did exist & was not a lie?!?). Surprisingly, it was now stated that National Geographic had based their article on data supplied by the Ghost Tours camp, who had "happily supplied information to NG"...this was in stark contrast to the previous statement, whereby information came from a "Paranormal society who they interviewed for an article on The Most Haunted City - which was quoted as York." To this day, six months later, no scan of the National Geographic article has surfaced on the Ghost Tours site...& has not done so for one very good reason - IT DOES NOT EXIST!
So...what is the truth?? In order to expose Brisbane's "2nd Most Haunted" myth, I took the liberty of writing to the Headquarters of the National Geographic Society in Washington D.C. with two simple questions - had the National Geographic Society ever undertaken a poll, from which an article was published, on the most haunted cities in the world? If so, had Brisbane been voted, by the National Geographic Society, as the 2nd most haunted city globally? The answer, which is best viewed in its original typed & hand-signed form on National Geographic letterhead [right here], was a resounding no! However...one last detail was provided that would crack the scandal wide open, & expose Ghost Tours & "Jack" Sim once & for all...
According to the correspondence, "the October 2008 issue of National Geographic Traveller Magazine contained a short article titled "The Most Haunted City in the World?" concerning York, England." The article in question covers 9 pages, & is written purely about York. And for that matter, the Traveller Magazine is nothing more than a spin-off publication - yes, it it published by National Geographic, but at the same time it is not the National Geographic Magazine. On investigation, a blurb exists independently at the end of the article on York, entitled Beyond York: More Ghost Cities - & for the first time ever, independent of Ghost Tours & their inability to provide this information, here it is on the Haunts of Brisbane word for word:
"Apparitions have been "sighted" in many spots around the world, but there are certain cities that, like York, tout an abundance of resident spirits. Making the top ten on many lists? Ghost-ridden New Orleans, from the spooky French Quarter to the Garden District and the city's graveyards; the Old World capital of Prague, whose dark streets have been visited by a headless horseman and a wandering skeleton; St. Petersburg, Russia, where sightings have included the ghosts of Russian mystic and royal confidant Rasputin and a social revolutionary, Sofia Perovskaya, who appears on a bridge with a rope burn apparent around her neck; and Florence, Italy, with wraiths that drift along the walls of the Belvedere Fort and various ghosts - a cleaning lady, a woman knitting - at Pensione Burchianti. Then there is Brisbane, Australia, ranked after York by the Ghost Research Foundation International, with more than 240 sightings, including phantasms who wander the stairs and ride the elevators of City Hall."
So, there you have it - one measly, generic sentence regarding Brisbane! National Geographic has never run a poll on the world's most haunted cities, National Geographic has never voted Brisbane the 2nd most haunted city in the world (& nor did the Ghost Research Foundation International for that matter), & National Geographic has never published an article on the most haunted cities in the world in which Brisbane featured (a small blurb tailing an actual article in a spin-off publication does not count). In Ghost Tours' statement above on the 12th of September 2011, they are very quick to point out that "Accusing us of lying is unacceptable on this webpage" - well, Ghost Tours, where do you stand now?? "Jack" Sim, as owner & operator of Ghost Tours, has blatantly & purposefully lied to you, the paying public, in order to sell tickets on his tours - this lie has been almost 14 years in the making, through manipulation of information via the media, as has been demonstrated in Part I & II. I urge you all to spread the word by sharing this article amongst your wider friends at work, on the weekends, on your Facebook accounts - it is high time for "Jack" Sim to be held to account for running such a fraudulent marketing campaign, & for Brisbane's "2nd Most Haunted" rating to be laid to rest once & for all.