Does Chad Calek's Sir Noface Footage Show A Real Ghost?
This article is more than five years old.
WARNING: This article includes major spoilers throughout.
American paranormal researcher and filmmaker, Chad Calek has made the bold claim that his latest film includes a clip of a ghost which has the potential to "change the world". But is the grainy, night vision footage presented in the film the real deal?
The 2018 documentary, which is just shy of two hours long, revolves around the spooky goings on at Cockatoo Island in Sydney, and follows Chad on his journey to validate the video evidence collected by the West Sydney Paranormal Research (WSPR) team at the location, including the clip of a spirit dubbed "Sir Noface".
It all started after the award-winning filmmaker's 2014 tour of Australia, it was his first time in the country and he fell in love with it. He decided to return a year later for a ghost hunting event with his fans at the infamous Cockatoo Island.
The film, which sells itself as a documented true story, starts out by telling us the tale of Chad's return to Australia, where he teamed up with WSPR for the event. Before they embarked on their investigation of the island, the founder of WSPR, Craig Powell showed guests some evidence that his team has recorded on the island.
Craig described the clip as a "full body apparition", and when Chad saw the video evidence, he said "I was f**king floored."
Cockatoo Island, now a public park and camp ground, is situated in the middle of Sydney harbour, with a view of the famous opera house and iconic harbour bridge. It was originally an aboriginal fishing base, but after Australia was colonised, became an Alcatraz-like prison.
The conditions for inmates on the island were grim and there were many deaths, which eventually led to the prison's closure. An archeological team digging on the island in 2009 unearthed the prison's torture cells, which had been filled in to stop their existence becoming public knowledge.
After the closure of the prison, the island became a construction yard for merchant vessels until 1913, before eventually becoming a naval ship yard until 1991 when it fell into disuse.
The former penal establishment's most famous ghost as that of a man who is said to have been seen wearing military uniform. He's referred to as Sir, or at least he was until Craig's team caught him on camera, which showed he had a complete lack of discernible facial features, hence the nickname was updated to Sir Noface.
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The first half hour of the film is one big tease, building up to the reveal of the Noface footage. To get us in the mood we're shown some of SWPR's other pieces of video evidence from the island. These videos represent a large portion of the body of evidence captured at Cockatoo Island by Craig and the WSPR team. It includes a series of motion detectors being set off in an empty hallway, some strange bright flashes of light from an unknown source, unexplained sounds, and the claim Craig has his shirt tugged by an unseen force.
It's a good build up to what we're all desperate to see at this point, the clip that floored Chad, the world-changing footage that could be proof of the paranormal. Finally, at around the 33 minute mark we finally get to see footage of Sir Noface.
The Sir Noface clip was shot in the island's Officers' Quarters, a building known as "Sir's House", on February 15th 2014.
Kat Lyons, Richmond Repata and Nicky Myers from the WSPR team were apparently let into the building by a security man, who unlocked the door for them. They set up a video camera in one of the rooms, started it recording and left. The camera remained untouched all night. The security guard assured the team that all buildings were kept locked and secured at all times.
The camera began recording at 9:50pm and ran for almost six hours before losing battery power, and despite being in a building that was supposed to be completely locked down, four hours and 47 minutes into the video at precisely 2:37am, an eerie figure was caught peering a round a door in the hallway.
Chad describes the clip, "with an incredibly fluid motion that appears to defy all natural human movement and physics, what can only be described as a full body apparition leans around the doorway at the back of the hall, just long enough to get a direct look at the camera, before sliding back behind the wall. But not before allowing the time it took to notice its near perfect human figure, which is ever so oddly combined with a complete lack of discernible facial features, hence the nickname Sir Noface."
"I knew the second I saw it there was something very different about this footage."
Upon returning to America, Chad asked Craig to send him the raw footage of the incident. After an initial check, Chad said that it appeared that it had not been manipulated in any way. Chad knew that if this footage is real, "this is the type of s**t that can change the world"
So, over the next hour of the documentary, we follow him as he sets out on a mission to prove whether the footage is real or not in order to definitively prove that ghosts exist.
Speaking to Craig before beginning his investigation, Chad said, "I've got to be honest, the footage you shared with me, I think it is the most definitive evidence I've ever seen. It's one of two things, you have legitimately captured a full body apparition and paranormal activity on film or you are pulling off one of the greatest hoaxes ever."
He then tells Craig that, "I'm going to have to hold you and your team to the coals to get to the bottom of this", and warns him that things might get intense but Craig assures Chad, "I've got nothing to hide."
Part of Chad's investigation involves interviewing Craig and his whole team to determine whether they would have a motive and the intent to fake the footage. This included an interview with Craig's wife Nicky, who was one of the researchers who set up the camera at the location that night.
During his interview, Craig said he never had any intention of Chad bringing the footage to the world, and Nicky confidently reassured Chad that "what occurred out there was 150% real. Without a doubt."
The team came across as pretty genuine. While they potentially did have something to gain from faking a piece of evidence like this, i.e. fame and funding, I get the impression that they were all respectable and genuine paranormal researchers who wouldn't knowingly present fake evidence.
Sadly, Chad didn't interview anyone from the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust who own the island or the security guard who was on duty that night. Although the building was locked, is it possible that someone else could have gained entry to that hallway? After all, an abandoned prison does seem like a prime location for urban explorers.
It would also be interesting to know what is off to the left where the figure emerged from. Is this the direction of the buildings entrance or does it lead further into the building. If it's the latter and the figure was a human then they would have had to be in the building before the camera started rolling.
Chad believes that if SWPR had faked the footage it will have been done by one of two means, either physically faked using an actor or faked with computer generated imagery.
The team tried to recreate the footage using an actor in the same conditions, but it was clearly very different to the original. The biggest difference being that the figure's face is clearly visible in the recreated footage.
This means the team did rule out the possibility that a human accidentally or purposely stepped into the shot, but if SWPR did fake the footage, then this recreation actually proves nothing and Chad should have tried this experiment himself in order to rule this out as a possibility.
However, comparing the original and recreated footage, it's clear to see that the figure isn't of adult height. Chad says that through comparison he concluded that Sir Noface is around 137cm tall. That rules out a team member or a security guard. It doesn't rule out one of Craig's kids, although he says they weren't on the island that night. It's great that Chad was able to determine the height of the figure, but it's odd that none of the SWPR team have tried to establish the height of the figure before. They claim to be professional paranormal investigators, so should have been able to tell it was the ghost of a child without Chad's help.
In order to rule out the possibility that the footage is the result of computer generated imagery, Chad gave a copy to a professional visual effects animator, Danny Patterson. Danny has worked on several Hollywood movies, including 'Iron Man 3', 'Transformers', and 'TRON: Legacy'.
After analysing the clip, Danny says the figure "just doesn't seem like it moves in what we would call 'reality', but there is no way for me to tell you that this is fake."
Danny could not definitively say for sure that the footage was doctored, but he did say that "you would need a very high end compositor with decades of experience to be able to make that really fit on a pixel by pixel level."
This leads Chad to the conclusion that Sir Noface is not human, although Danny says that he could recreate the footage using CGI. A few days later Danny has done just that, and delivers a digitally faked version of the video to Chad, and it's pretty close. Considering the quick turn around, he hasn't done a bad job.
Chad sums up the debate on the use of digital manipulation by saying that "Danny absolutely concluded it is not CGI," but he didn't. Danny actually said, "there is no way for me to tell you that this is fake."
Chad also expressed his surprise that Craig didn't get the footage examined by a CGI expert himself, but if Craig knows that CGI wasn't used, then he would have no reason to have it checked for digital doctoring. Also, it's a little rich of Chad to criticise Craig for not pursuing an expert's opinion when he only asked one expert himself and the expert he asked was actually unable to say for sure whether the footage was faked or not. So Chad should have got a second and even third opinion.
Is The Footage Fake?
I felt that the documentary failed to answer this question, it didn't provide any proof that CGI or fakery was involved, but neither did it provide any evidence that the footage wasn't faked. It's a shame Chad didn't set out to collect his own evidence. If paranormal activity is so common and predictable on the island then why didn't Chad investigate it himself for the film, rather than just trying to debunk another team's evidence?
The truth is, this video is very hard to debunk because it's a very short clip and the footage is very grainy. It could be a person entering the shot, it could be CGI, it could be a real ghost. It's impossible to tell.
The other reason it's so hard to debunk is because it's hard to work out who would be behind the fake. The SWPR team seemed honest and genuine, and in 2016 they disbanded as Craig wanted to spend more time with his kids. So, they had nothing to gain from faking it, they weren't around long enough to reap any rewards.
Towards the end of the documentary, Craig said that the Harbour Federation had ask his team to investigate the island to establish whether it was haunted as they wanted to run paranormal events. Craig said, "they were really interested in starting ghost tours or ghost hunts on the island. So, they thought it might have been a good way for the trust that runs the island to be able to make some money to maintain the old buildings."
So they did have something to gain from faking the footage and it is possible that they sent someone into the building in order to achieve hoax in order to get some publicity, they would have had the means to unlock the locked down property and gain entry without the researchers knowing.
But, weirdly the Harbour Federation accused the WSPR team of faking their evidence and banned them from carrying out paranormal research on the island. Craig claims that the decision was made after they experienced paranormal activity themselves, he said that it scared them to a point where "their only comfort was to say it was fake."
This could suggest that the Harbour Federation weren't behind the fake footage themselves as this would discredit it, but while the Federation have banned SWPR, they haven't discredited all the paranormal activity on the island. They did start running paranormal events on the island, they put on weekly ghost tours of the old buildings. So, clearly the press attention of ghost footage would have help the Harbour Federation sell tickets, but if this were the case, why didn't they encourage SWPR to release the footage sooner? It may have never gained public attention if Chad hadn't have seen it.
This leaves us with no obvious motive, so I am forced to resort to pure logic based on my own beliefs. As the CGI expert said, it's impossible to tell if the footage has been digitally manipulated, but visual effects are so realistic now that if I watched 'Transformers' it's impossible to tell that the robots are fake. The only reason I know that the Transformers aren't real is because I know that robots like that don't exist.
I don't believe ghosts exist. Therefore, even if I can't tell if it's CGI or not, based on my beliefs, logically it must be CGI. So, as you can tell, I'm not convinced and I don't think I could be by a piece of video, I'd need to have been there that night to know for myself that there was no one in the building and have access to the original raw video clip straight from the camera.
I think Chad did a fairly good job of investigating Craig and his team, but did very little else to validate or debunk the clip, yet he is convinced that it is definitive proof of the paranormal. He said, "this figure, this being, this entity is a ghost. Make no mistake about it. That is what you are looking at."
One More Possibility
There is one more possibility. Chad faked the whole thing. Chad has a proven history of profiting from films and tours, and this whole stunt could be devised with the help of Craig to help sell films and tours.
The fact that the footage of Sir Noface was never made public before the documentary exposed it could point to the truth that the footage never existed before the release of the film. Remember, Chad is good friends with Danny, a Hollywood visual effects expert. It's very possible Danny could have created Sir Noface.
The SWPR group, who play a large part in the documentary, seem like they were actually a pretty small-time group setup in 2010 and mostly made up of just Craig and his wife. There are a few stories about them in local Sydney news dating back to around 2016, but nothing more.
The group did have an official website, which was set up in 2010. They posted photos and video evidence from their investigations up until September 2013, six months before the Noface evidence was captured. The website had few updates since 2013 and was taken down in March of 2018.
The group's Facebook page has been deleted, their Twitter page hasn't been updated for over a year and their YouTube channel was rebranded to "Darkness Downunder" in 2017, but it doesn't contain any video evidence collected by the team.
A quick Google search reveals that Chad stands accused of suspicious activity and possible fakery in order to drum up interest in previous projects. All this could point to the fact that the whole thing is staged. At the end of the day, it's a film. Saying it's a documented true story doesn't mean it is. The marketing for the 1999 supernatural movie 'The Blair Witch Project' completely revolved around selling it as a factual documentary, but of course it was nothing more than a fictional piece of entertainment.
I think the final word should come from my mum. I showed her the clip and told her it was supposed to be the best evidence ever captured that proves the existence of ghosts. Straight away she said, "that's rubbish, you can see the shadow!"
Watch 'Sir Noface'
The first five minutes of the film are a little slow and unnecessary. We see several faces pop up on screen along with their names, this includes Chad's wife and daughter, but none of these people are actually relevant to the story in any way.
Once this is out of the way, the film soon becomes pretty interesting and is a good watch from start to finish. It raises lots of questions, but answers few. Therefore you could read review after review with varying opinions, but it's best that you watch it yourself in order to form your own opinion on the footage's validity.
Obviously I'm not going to show any stills or clips of the Sir Noface ghost here and I would advice you not to search the internet for illegal clips of that moment in the documentary. The first half hour of the film focuses on the background of the clip before it's revealed. You really need to know the context and conditions before you view the clip and former an opinion. That's exactly what the documentary allows you to do.
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