Penn & Teller taught me (not personally, in a TV show) one of the best lessons for seeing through a trick (which also comes in very handy for debunking anecdotal accounts of the paranormal, even when it’s on video).
The stunt was a truck running over Teller as he lied… or is it laid… lain? …was prone on the street. Victoria Jackson and a group of about 20 audience members were on the other side of the street to watch in order to assure no monkey business on that side. Victoria reported that all was normal on her side, and the audience backed her up. The truck then ran over Teller.
They then showed how they did it – a fake tire and a truck that was heavily rigged with huge counterbalances on the opposite side – the side that Victoria and the audience were supposedly keeping their eye on.
Penn asked Victoria (something to the effect), “Didn’t you see that ballast?”
Victoria: “Yes, I did.”
Penn: “But you said that everything was normal on that side.”
Victoria: “I lied, Penn.”
Penn: “Well, what about all those audience members?”
Victoria: “They lied, too, we were all in on it.”
In fact, many of the large stunts where impossibly huge things disappear are performed for camera angles and the audience is on it. A magician can readily make an audience an accomplice by telling them off-camera that the joke is on the home viewing audience.
So, when I see anonymous reporters, scientists, or holy people on video giving an eye-witness testimony to the paranormal, I remain skeptical until a proven debunker or certifier is present to document it.
Remember, they’re in on it. All of them.