Archive for the ‘paranormal’ Category
There was an interesting article published by ‘The Weston Mercury’ today about some of the stranger things people have reported to the Avon & Somerset Constabulary over the past few years. Things like:
Aliens – including UFOs, lights in the sky and little green men – prompted the most calls, with 32 such reports.
One caller claimed to have been abducted by aliens, one reported ‘aliens across the road’, and another said they had seen an alien ‘trying to breathe everyone in’.
Lights in the sky were said to have slowly circled one caller’s town, while another person said they had seen 23 UFOs fly in formation down the Bristol Channel.
Big cats were another common cause, accounting for 31 calls. The creatures are described by various callers as pumas, panthers, leopards, and even a lion.
One caller told startled 999 operators they had seen ‘a large black cat the size of a donkey pass the house’, while others reported seeing a leopard sunbathing on top of a bridge and a panther killing deer.
And ghosts and mischievous spirits were spotted by plenty of 999 callers too.
One person said a ghost was ‘chasing’ them, another casually claimed to have seen a ghost ‘the other day’, and one said a poltergeist had ‘moved things around and deleted files from the laptop’.
I thought it was rather interesting to have such figures released. It was, however, something in the comments section that caught my attention. Someone by the name of T-bone commented:
I’m not sure this sort of thing should be made public…it might encourage some other childish person to copy them.
It isn’t childish of somebody to not be able to explain something they’ve witnessed. It also isn’t childish for them to phone the local police force if they are genuinely concerned or scared by what they have witnessed.
To be perfectly honest, if I saw what I thought was a puma or leopard I too would phone the police!
I have only been investigating paranormal claims and reports for a short time, but in that time I have met people who are truly puzzled, and sometimes petrified by what they’ve witnessed. Quite often, eye witnesses are embarrassed because they think they’re stupid or weird. Not everyone who witnesses a ‘ghost’ or a ‘UFO’ believes them to be possible. Quite often they’re stumped for an answer and they know that other people would say it was a ghost or a UFO.
If we dismiss them as childish or stupid or weird because they can’t work something out, it would be cruel. Sometimes all people need is someone to believe that they’ve had such a strange experience – leaving all possible causes to one side – telling someone you understand that they’ve genuinely been confused or spooked by something can help them a lot.
If you can then include them in the process of trying to determine what it was that caused what they witnessed, it can help them learn new facts and understand similar experiences in the future.
So many people think they are stupid for being scared of something spooky that happened. That isn’t the case at all.
Back in February I was on a panel with Professor Chris French and Trystan Swale at the QED conference in Manchester. The panel was called ‘Ghost Investigations Today’ and that was exactly what we were talking about.
The QED team have made the talk available via Youtube and it can be watched below. I cannot watch myself talk so I have no idea what it’s like. I was great fun though and I just want to say thanks again to Mike, Marsh, Janis, Andy, Rick and the rest of the team for the chance to take part. I can’t wait until QED in March.
Photo credit: Gammy
An earlier blog of mine titled ‘Leave the ghosts alone’ has caused some confusion with some who have read it. I have seen a number of replies on my blog and elsewhere, where people can’t understand how I can think it is unethical for people to be disresepctful towards what they believe to be ghosts when ghosts don’t exist.
If ghosts aren’t real you can’t disrespect them, after all.
This is true, but you can disrespect their memory. Not to mention, the behaviour I wrote about goes much further than just taunting ghosts who aren’t there.
I should remember when writing about things like this that most people who read my blog have no first hand experience with the world of paranormal research and don’t understand the things you are exposed to when you are involved in the field. In my time as a paranormal researcher I have seen other groups conduct ‘investigations’ at venues where someone has killed themselves, or has been killed in the past ten years.
Personally, when dealing with a reported case I consider a death in the last 50 years to be ‘recent’ with the potential for living relatives to be effected negatively by the slightest wrong move on my part.
One instance that stands out in my mind was one occasion where the deceased still has family members living in the local area to this day. When the group in question (not my group), conducted their investigation in the building where this person had killed themselves they went to the newspapers shortly afterwards with the findings of their time spent there with their medium. They also posted a report on their website in which they detailed how this person was stuck in the building and still anguished, sad and angry over what it was that had made them kill themselves. It was horrible to read and I didn’t even know them.
Sadly, the family of the deceased still lived in the town and saw the newspaper report and the team report online. I don’t know how that made them feel as I don’t know them and didn’t get to speak to them – but I can imagine how awful it would be to hear that a paranormal team had done that. Whether they believed in ghosts or not.
One comment left on my blog by a visitor called ‘G T Hogg’ read:
…just because descendants living today are ‘woo’ and believe in ghosts/spirits, doesn’t mean that any real harm is done. It mattes not whether anyone today believes that they are related to any distantly deceased person, woo is still woo. For any offence or harm to be ‘felt’ by any descendants means that they are lacking in logical, critical thinking and hold crazy woo beliefs, in short they need to get real.
I do not agree with this. You don’t need to believe in ghosts to be disturbed by the intentions of unethical paranormal researchers. Everyone goes through grief in their own way. The sentiments expressed in this comment are extremely unsympathetic.
When Simon Singh was present at a Psychic Sally Morgan show, he witnessed her telling an audience member that their deceased loved one had tried to kill themselves numerous times. The audience member had been unaware of this, and I saw lots of skeptics (myself included) reacting in horror and disgust that such an awful thing would be said by someone unable to prove their claim.
I believe that ghost hunters who do the same sort of thing – just not on stage – are guilty of the same disrespectful and unethical behaviour. They too make claims about the deceased, often uncaring of how long ago the deceased died and what effect their claims will have on those around them.
The Pendle Witch case in the original blog post is a very old haunting and isn’t the best example of this behaviour. However those ghost hunters who go up on the hill and goad the witches into doing something – who take their cues from Yvette “Come on, you bitch. Bitch! Come on you bitch!” Fielding, are very likely to exhibit exactly the same behaviour and attitude in all of the venues and locations they visit. Most of them will be public buildings where minimal harm can be done to the general public, where hauntings are based on folklore stories that are really old. Yet some of those locations will be private houses, they will be places where employees will be too scared to work alone, where children live in fear of shadows, (as I once did).
To behave in this manner doesn’t just disrespect the deceased and potentially upset still living relatives – it scares the crap out of people. It misleads them and makes them live and work in fear of something they don’t understand. Sure, the person who is upset or scared may be wrong in the long run because of the lack of evidence that ghost exist, but that doesn’t mean that it’s ok to put them into that situation in the first place. Nobody deserves to be brushed aside just because they’re not aware of certain information because after all, they’re not the ones claiming to be experts in paranormal research.
One bad habit, like goading a dead witch into throwing something at you, can have serious consequences further down the line if left unchallenged by those who know better.
That. That’s unethical.
After my blog post yesterday about how some ghost hunters were behaving irrationally over the recent discovery of a buried cottage at Pendle Hill I thought it only right to let those I mentioned by name know I had done so. I think it’s good blogging etiquette to do so.
In response, Don Philip has posted on his Facebook wall that I am
“A young lady trying to make a name for herself”
I would like to point out that if there is anything I have made a name for myself through, it is being open minded in my approach to paranormal research. I am willing to point out when I am wrong, and I learn new things all the time and change my beliefs and opinions as new facts become available. My main aim with my paranormal research is, and always has been, to learn more about the reality behind these experiences. This is something I have continued to achieve year after year. I have just enrolled on two courses with the Open University, with whom I am working towards a BSc Psychology degree in the hope that I can learn even more about the way in which people think, believe and perceive.
I am simply curious, and this curiosity has led me to experience the strange world of paranormal research through the eyes of a naïve believer who grew and evolved into a fact seeking, lesson learning skeptical researcher.
That’s why I am invited to speak at events all over the place. That could seem like an appeal to authority but it isn’t. Me speaking at events isn’t what makes me a good researcher – my constant research, fact checking and self questioning is what makes me a good researcher.
It’s also why I’m asked to contribute to research by others.
For example, I was once asked by Professor Chris French to review some footage that he’d been asked onto a UK television show to give a skeptical opinion on. He asked for my opinion because he isn’t a field based ex-ghost hunter. The footage was from an investigation conducted by a paranormal team called G.S.I – their founder, Don Philip.
The footage in question, as shown below, shows Don taking temperature readings in a room and asking a ghost to make the reading change. Over time it does. This is attributed to a spirit/ghost.
Watch from the 3 minute mark.
I was able to explain to Chris that the reason the temperature was changing is not because a ghost is present, but because Don was using the equipment incorrectly, or without knowing what the readings the thermometer takes mean. The model he uses is a laser thermometer that measures surface temperature. Don is waving it all around the room meaning that the device cannot measure on specific point as it is designed to do so.
I am able to offer such advice and spot such mistakes because I am open minded and I have learnt – and continue to learn, from those around me who conduct rational research into paranormal phenomena. It’s easy and lazy to apply a paranormal cause to something that looks a bit odd, especially when it only looks a bit odd because you simply haven’t bothered to work out how to use the device in question.
Dons accusation that I am trying to make a name by criticising him is wrong, it smacks of a diversion tactic because he doesn’t have an answer regarding the things I spoke of in the original blog post about illogical ghost chasing based on nothing but folklore stories. Prove me wrong though, Don. Defend your decisions and your methods… if you can.
A follow on to this post: Leave the ghosts alone part II
I don’t believe in ghosts because of the lack of supporting evidence. I also don’t know what a ghost is because of the lack of supporting evidence for any one particular definition (and there are many definitions.)
One thing I am certain of is that the majority of people who go ghost hunting believe they are communicating with the ‘spirits’ of the deceased. It’s evident in the apparent conversations they hold with what they think are spirits.
This raises numerous problems. The biggest problem being that most ghost hunters are being disrespectful and unethical with their intentions to communicate with the dead.
I have had this problem with ghost hunting for a long time, ever since I first realised in 2007 that I was acting unethically. I’m writing about it now because today an article over at The Guardian about the discovery of a buried cottage and entombed cat discovered in the Pendle Hill area has brought out the Yvette Fielding wannabe’s, who are drooling over the potential of chasing the ghost of a witch.
It’s strange behaviour considering that no paranormal activity has been reported at this discovery – and the only thing to link it to a ghost is outdated and inaccurate folklore. To investigate such a thing as a ‘paranormal researcher’ is illogical.
Pendle Hill has long been a focus for ghost hunting groups because of the folklore and the infamous witch trials and executions that took place there.
I don’t know how the two examples, Don Philip and Richard Case, operate and the ways in which they work – but the fact they’re investigating a ‘case’ where there’s nothing to investigate calls into question why they’re even bothering and is an excellent example of the eagerness of thrill seeking ghost hunters to jump on the potential of a spooky story simply because of associated folklore.
It’s not just that though. Many other teams and individuals (not necessarily the two mentioned above – I don’t know…), go crawling all over Pendle Hill trying to challenge the ghosts of the witches to do something to them in vain acts of ghost hunter bravado. It’s horrible, especially when you consider the fact that the majority of them truly believe they are speaking to the spirits of the deceased.
Even though they’re being illogical they’re also being extremely disrespectful and their behaviour borders on unethical, and that’s the bigger problem.
I used to behave in a similar manner… when I was 18 and 19. Then I grew up and stopped trying to be some sort of paranormal super hero. It’s not okay to behave this way, the potential thrill and confirmation bias is not worth more than some respect for the deceased and their surviving family. It is not worth more than the ethical behaviour a ghost hunter owes the location owner and those they are misleading through their behaviour.
I do not believe that the spirits of the so-called witches are still on Pendle Hill. I do not believe they do exist, I do not believe they can exist, but those who go looking for them do. I think there is something very wrong with this behaviour – to pursue what you genuinely believe is the earth-bound spirit of a person who was executed, or died in such horrendous circumstances for no real crime is horrid. To taunt them and challenge them is even worse. It doesn’t make you very special. In fact, I think it makes you a bit of a coward.
Not only that, but it makes potentially makes you a closed minded and illogical researcher.
If you genuinely believe that the spirit of a deceased person is still here they should be left to rest in peace, or at least treated in a respectful manner.
Leave the ghosts alone.
I noticed that someone linked to my blog over on the SGU forum, in a post where the author was asking others for advice about a potential partner that wanted to join a ghost hunting team.
They were wondering what they should do because they’re a skeptic and their potential mate wanted to join a team that goes out looking for ghosts, and it’s sort of silly and misguided and pseduo-scientific.
I’m not a relationship expert, but personally I don’t think it’s a huge deal. I occasionally go on paranormal investigations with the team I am part of, and we have all sorts of members. Some of them are married or in relationships and although their partners don’t have an interest in the subject or have different beliefs than they do, it isn’t an obstacle for them.
Not all couples have to have the same beliefs, and it’s perfectly fine for you to think that something your partner believes in is stupid, but you should just respect that it’s a decision – a conclusion, that they have reached.
With ghost hunting it’s likely that it’s an illogical conclusion that they have reached, and I would suggest a discussion could be had about why they believe what they believe, and why they want to go hang out in dark buildings in the cold.
There’s a great article on SkepticNorth by Ethan Clow called ‘Talking about ghosts’ that touches upon how to approach such a discussion and it’s well worth a read.
As someone who used be a person that would go hunting for ghosts I can tell you now that there is an element of fun and adventure involved that makes the decision for you. There’s also the element of copying what you see on TV which looks really spooky and cool. The reality is nothing like what you see on television.
One way to get someone who is a believer in ghosts to rethink their stance is to talk to them about the subject in the manner Clow suggests in the article linked to above.
I’d also suggest getting them to read ‘Scientific Paranormal Investigation’ by Benjamin Radford – maybe it would make a cool christmas present? Perhaps if you’re not at the gift giving stage of a relationship you could pass them on the link to an abstract from the book called ‘Top Five Ghost Hunting Mistakes‘ that really tackles the influences that cause people to be misguided in their quest to find ghosts.
Sometimes you can be so blinded by the excitment that a ghost hunt promises that it isn’t until someone slaps the facts in your face that you become aware of your own illogical thinking. Also, it is possible to disagree on a topic – such a ghosts – and still have a good relationship.
The fact is though that until you know why someone wants to be a ghost hunter, you can’t really talk to them about why it might be illogical. There’s a whole bunch of reasons someone might want to get involved in such a team.
I hope this post can answer the question asked on the SGU forum, and if not, feel free to get in touch.
Today a Ghost Laser Grid pen arrived in the post and I have to admit it’s a pretty awesome little laser pen and quite fun to play with, however, as I’ve blogged before, this is really useless as a paranormal research gadget. Rather than turning the lights off and putting a ghost laser grid pen on in the room so that you might see some ghosts, just keep the lights on. It makes much more sense.