Hayley is a Ghost

Nottingham, ghosts, monsters and me.

Posted on: June 10, 2010

Nottingham

Oops, I appear to have neglected my blog slightly but I think I should be forgiven as I have been a bit busy of late. My first skeptics in the pub talk took place on Tuesday in the city of Nottingham – a place I have never visited before.

Although I spent less than 24 hours there I still feel that I came away having had quite a unique experience. See, I arrived in Nottingham just before 2pm and by the time I had located my hotel, unpacked my stuff and organised the things I needed for my talk into one pile and everything else where it needed to be it was nearly 2:30pm.

I had time to kill and after getting some lunch I went for a wander around the parts of the city I could remember (so I could find my way back) and I found myself at the galleries of justice.

I had thought about visiting the galleries prior to actually getting to Nottingham but I hadn’t been sure whether it was worth it or not. I had over an hour to kill and it had started to rain a bit and, standing on the steps looking up at the tall, formidable building in front of me I decided it was worth taking a gamble.

It seems I was the only person that had this thought because throughout the entire time I was in the galleries of justice I only bumped into one other person and that was a member of staff.

I was essentially walking around ‘Britains most haunted building’ on my own. It was amazing, but it was also a bit overwhelming, seeing all of the exhibits and standing in that courtroom, knowing what has happened there in the past.

I think that whether you believe in ghosts or not; when you visit a location like that and you read the history you can’t help but feel a sense of awe about the place.

The bit that really got me was when I accidentally turned into the exercise yard and my audio guide told me how to find the carved-in grafitti from prisoners. Sure enough, as I found some I found more and soon I could see carvings made by people who were likely to have been imprisoned for petty crimes and who may have been facing execution. I stood there in this oppresive exercise yard on my own with grey skies above me, a mocked up gallows at the other end of the yard from me, running my fingers over the names of long dead people who had been locked up in that building. I was overcome with the tragedy of it all and my mind flicked back to the episode of Most Haunted where I think Derek Acorah was allowed to crap all over the memories of the people who are supposed to haunt the place. It made me feel a bit angry that something like that could be cheapened for entertainment.

I had a great time at the skeptics in the pub event despite technical issues that meant I couldn’t use my slideshow. I still managed to pull most of my talk from the top of my head and I hope it came across okay. My next talk is in Bristol on June 30th at The Greenbank in Easton, Bristol at 7pm. I have added more stuff to my talk and trimmed some stuff out and I will hopefully have video and audio to play to make it more interesting. Do come along if you can.

Ghosts, monsters & me

Sometimes people have a hard job understanding why somebody who identifies themselves as a skeptic bothers with paranormal things such as ghosts, monsters, legends and the like.

I’ve seen it said in the past that bothering to investigate these things is a “waste of time” and a “waste of a skeptical resource that could be used on more important things.”

I don’t agree with this and wanted to use my blog to explain why. You see, claims of the paranormal have existed for a long time and have been tested throughout the decades by multiple people – from Houdini to James Randi; and of course, more recently Derren Brown has been looking at certain paranormal claims in his television show “Derren Brown investigates…”

One thing we can be certain of is that a large number of people across the world report seeing ghosts, monsters and other strange things. As a phenomena, things like this deserve to be investigated.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

What needs to be understood by people who claim that as a skeptic I am wasting my time researching ghost cases and reportings of odd animals and creatures is that I am not like the researchers that you see on television or might read about in news articles.

I don’t intend to prove ghosts or monsters exist, I set out to research the claims and look for other possibilites.

Anyone who has listened to my talk ‘I’m a ghost hunter; get me out of here’ will know how a belief in ghosts can be damaging for people, just as homeopathy can.

I fully understand how misidentification works and I know how to apply Occhams razor to a situation or a case I am researching.

I was a paranormal researcher before I became more involved in skepticism and the skeptical community. Paranormal research will always be something I am involved with even as a skeptical researcher.

If some people feel that by looking into reports of ghosts being seen, or big cats being seen I am wasting time I could be focussing on something like alt-med or scam-psychics or similar then that’s fine because that’s a personal opinion.

My opinion on that take on what I do is that it’s wrong. I do what I can to help show the truth behind things such as homeopathy, psychics and how they might cheat and other sorts of woo that skeptics deal with on a daily basis on the podcast and at a local level too as often as I can. There is a limit to the input I can have though just like any other skeptic who doesn’t have a background in science or a thorough understanding of the topic in hand.

I do what I can, when I can and that does include ghosts and monsters because to some people they are are real as the memory water has if you believe homeopathy works, or the link to the afterlife a medium has. Amazing claims deserve to be researched no matter how bizarre they may seem, or whether they conflict with your personal belief and biases.

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3 Responses to "Nottingham, ghosts, monsters and me."

Researching claims of the paranormal is important. It’s why Joe Nickel takes his open minded approach of “Well, every prior case has had a non-supernatural explanation, but it’s possible this one won’t.” He doesn’t expect to find a supernatural explanation, nor do you, but both of you are open to the possibility.

Casually dismissing claims without investigation simply bolsters the claimant and gives them credibility in the eyes of those less well informed on the issues. Taking claims seriously and doing quality investigations adds to the sum total of knowledge on these issues and ultimately redounds to the benefit of science.

I would argue ignoring claims and letting them sprout up all over unchallenged is the true waste of time in the long term.

I was really taken by what you said about your experience in the exercise yard. Shows like Ghost Hunters and their ilk try to pretend that they are doing some kind of good, but it’s just entertainment. Especially when they visit places like prisons, insane asylums, or old military forts. Their method is to provoke a so call spirit to respond by insulting them. Well, even if you don’t believe that the spirt doesn’t exist (which I don’t), isn’t it at the least insulting the memory of the people who did live, suffer and die there?

You really put it very well.

“Well, even if you don’t believe that the spirt doesn’t exist (which I don’t), isn’t it at the least insulting the memory of the people who did live, suffer and die there?”

I fully agree with this. I always make it personal. If someone were stepping all over the graves of my grandparents looking for ghosts I wouldn’t be exactly pleased about it so I don’t dish that behaviour out to others.

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Hayley is a ghost

Hayley Stevens is an advocate for science-based research into seemingly paranormal experiences and occurrences. With a background in the pseudo-scientific research into ghosts, Hayley offers a unique insight into the strange world of ghost hunting through her experience.

She describes herself as 'a ghost hunter who doesn't hunt for ghosts' and this is her personal blog where she writes about ghosts, people, and other interesting things. Read more here.

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