Hayley is a Ghost

Posts Tagged ‘stupid

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.

The last week or so since the accusations against Sally Morgan were made public and the news spread all over the place and ignited much discussion I’ve watched as people have swarmed to her Facebook groups and online discussion forums and similar to talk about what has happened.

Many have posted on Facebook groups set up by fans of Morgan to see what they think of what she has been accused of and the response has been interesting with some becoming uncertain of the psychic and others standing in her defense. One horrible thing I’ve seen though is a number of people who are skeptics and were skeptics of Morgan (and other psychics) long before this happened invading these groups for people who believe in psychics and being rude, offensive and abbrassive.

Mocking people about their beliefs achieves nothing, gloating achieves nothing.

It’s pathetic behaviour and just furthers the divide between those with beliefs that others are skeptical of; that’s what is achieved – nothing great. Some skeptical people say that mocking is a good form of educational outreach and perhaps in some instances it does work – but quite often it turns you and every other skeptic into the bad guy and then those people you’re mocking cannot be engaged with by anybody.

Some times people who believe in psychics can be stubborn in discussions, their reasoning is difficult to debate and they don’t listen – but the person who, in response to that, crumbles into mocking and name calling probably shouldn’t be trying to engage with people until they mature a bit.

If you’re angry at Sally Morgan, don’t take it out on the people who adore her and follow her because it just pushes them towards her. You have then achieved the total opposite of what needs to be achieved.

When your belief in something is rocked by an incident like Sally Morgan being accused of cheating, the last thing you need is someone rubbing your face in it and pointing out how stupid you are. Rather than naturally questioning what it is you believe in, you will go on the defense and simply draw closer to that which you believed in.

When I talk about engagement I mean the sort of engagement that Project Barnum managed to aid earlier this week when Tannice & Myles spoke to people at a Sally Morgan stageshow who believed Sally is psychic and managed to help them understand that everything may not have been as it seemed. 

Armed with posters and a general sense of curiosity they achieved more in an hour than any skeptic sat on Facebook being snide and rude will in a month.

'How about a nice cup of STFU?' pictureSometimes it’s best to leave the gloating to your own Facebook wall, unless of course you really do intend to just cause upset, and you take pleasure from mocking people. In which case you’re a piece of crap – just like the people who used to call me names for daring to believe that ghosts were real. This isn’t me trying to claim some moral high ground or make people feel bad, and I hope it isn’t taken that way, but if you don’t think about the way in which you talk to people and the effect your manner can have on them you could just be shooting yourself in the foot and furthering the ‘them and us’ rift that often exists between skeptical people, and those who believe in pseudo-scientific ideas.

If you want to approach people for a reasoned debate consider talking to them as though they’re humans who have arrived at a different conclusion about psychics to you – that is what they are, after all.

The other important thing to remember is that you won’t change peoples minds straight away (even when being nice) and you certainly wont when being horrible – but having a civil discussion can help show that skepticism really isn’t as bad as people often think. Who knows, after a civil conversation they might just check out the things you talked about and slowly arrive at their own conclusion (says I, who did just that….)

I’ve managed 100 episodes of Righteous Indignation without being rude or condescending to those guests who believe in things I don’t – surely people can manage one fucking conversation on Facebook without descending into scorn and bile?

I have just finished watching another excellent episode of Derren Brown investigates that focussed upon a chap called Lou Gentile and his beliefs in ghosts, possesions and demons.

He worked with exorcists and referred to himself and a demonologist and truly believed he had proof that ghosts existed in the form of filmed posessions (more likely to have been pseudoseizures known to be brought on by stress), Electronic voice recordings (more likely to be recognisable as answers or words due to audio pareidolia and a will to believe), and ghost photography that to me appeared to consist of lots of illusions.

It made him seem silly, and it made me want to laugh and a year ago I would have and I would have said he was stupid. However I wouldn’t say such a thing now because in the last year my involvement with the Righteous Indignation podcast has taught me one very important lesson that I will take to the grave with me, and that is that nobody is safe from fallacial thinking and leaps of logic. Nobody.

I came away from watching the episode with three pages of notes I had made that proved to me that in the last five years as a researcher I have developed my ability to think rationally about what I am presented with.

I called the autogain circuit, the pseudoseizures, the priming before it was even mentioned on the show because I’ve allowed myself to open my mind up to the bigger picture of what is actually happening around me, rather than what I would like to be happening around me.

However, in 2005, Hayley Stevens was a very different person who would have taken Lou’s side against Derren. It’s incredible how we, as people, can learn and adapt if we put our minds to it.

It’s difficult though when you have so much invested in your beliefs being right, to just drop them. Which is why when I hear of a pseudoscientific paranormal researcher making really outlandish claims I think about how easy it is for anyone to make leaps of logic because they’re desperate for their beliefs to be validated and I usually don’t mock them (unless they’ve proven themselves to be ignorant.)

Perhaps Lou Gentile was ignorant despite having the facts placed in front of him. Perhaps he was just misguided and hopeful.

I’ve been pretty disgusted to see some comments posted by people I respected as paranormal researchers that are extremely disrespectful of Lou’s position and beliefs.

If we were to take away the fact it was Lou they were talking about and were to place their comments with anyone out there who believes EVP are ghost voices, or that posessions really are demons it crosses the line from being an ethical, respectful investigator to being someone who comes across as having a “holier than thou” attitude.

That’s not an attractive attitude for a skeptic to have. It’s not proactive in any sense and achieves nothing.

Sure, I know I regularly make sarcastic comments on Righteous Indignation about people and the claims that they make, but I’m always willing to see things from their perspective because I’ve been the believer who had nonsense ideas.

We interview some people on the show whose theories and ideas are completely out there but we never mock them for it unless they prove themselves to be truly ignorant because we know that anyone can mess up with their way of thinking rationally at any moment.

We wouldn’t like to be mocked, in fact we’d probably become instantly defensive of the illogical position we took and wouldn’t listen to a word that people who were skeptical of our beliefs said.

So for people I respected as researchers to openly mock Lou for his beliefs despite the fact that at the end of the show it comments that he sadly passed away between filming and broadcasting the show has really made me lose my respect.

Sorry, but if you call yourself skeptical and yet your actions lose you the chance to explain your stance to people who aren’t as rational then you’re doing more damage than good.

Yesterday I was in the town of Trowbridge for an appointment and had an hour between the appointment ending and my mum finishing work.

I decided to hang around for an hour so I could meet her from work and travel home with her and so I decided to go into the towns Waterstones to have a look at the science section.

Somehow I ended up at the spirituality section and and found some of David Icke’s books. I read a few passages and giggling away to myself I recieved some off looks from other customers so I put the book back and carried on browsing.

I came across this thick black book that was only half as tall as the other books. Across the spine it had written “THE BOOK OF ANSWERS.”

Naturally I was curious. What answers could it hold? What questions did it answer? What would it’s pages reveal to me?

I snatched it off of the shelf, all wide eyed at the prospect of discovering the meaning to life or the ultimate question or something equally as great. Only… actually, it was nothing of the sort. It was actually just the book form of a Magic 8 ball and the pages each had a phrase on it such as “There will be many obstacles” or “It will be costly”.

It confused me so I had a look at the back and I found the instructions which suprised me because I’ve never had a book before that had instructions on the back. It would be a bit bland, wouldn’t it. 

“Start at the other end, open the cover, read.”

Anyway, these are the instructions from the back of the BOOK OF ANSWERS:

“It’s simple to use: just hold it closed in your hands and concentrate on your question for a few seconds. While visualizing or speaking your question, place one palm down on the book’s front and stroke the edge of the pages back to front. When you sense the time is right, open to the page your fingers landed on and there is your answer!”

 Naturally I had to give this a try. I thought about what question I could ask it, and then I realised that was a question itself.

So I asked “What question should I ask you?”

I placed my hand on the cover, asked the question, thumbed the pages… My answer was “It will be costly.”

The book was being difficult. ‘Perhaps’ I thought ‘it knows I’m skeptical, or perhaps it’s trying to be like other psychics by fleecing money out of me for information I already knew?’

It will be costly indeed…

I thought back to the job interview I’d had the previous day that I didn’t think had gone very well.

“Will I be successful with the job interview I had yesterday?” I asked it, it responded with “it will be great.”

Which I take to mean yes. So I’m holding the book to that. I’ll hear about the job by the end of next week regardless of whether I have it or not, so we shall see…

Finally, being mindful of the time I had wasted in the bookshop and the fact I had to go and meet my mum at some stage I asked it “What time is it” and it responded “13:30”

No, I’m joking. It didn’t, it actually said “Ask your mother” which was really stupid because she wasn’t there, and I had to go and meet her. I thought perhaps it was being sarcastic and that I was late so I legged it over to where my mum works and I still had half an hour to go.

Damned book!

It turns out you can ask the book your questions online… a bit like a magic 8 ball…

All messing aside though, I found it rather scary that people might consult a book like this for actual life advice regardless of whether they thought it was psychic or not. If you are that unsure of what decision you are going to make in your life, then it’s best to weigh up the pros and cons, talk to people you know and then make the decision rather than relying on a vague statement in the book that may or may not relate to the question you are looking to answer.

Or, if you really want to rely on vague statements that you can make fit around your question then just buy a cheap magic 8 ball from your local toy shop rather than this book that costs £15. Seriously.

In the end I popped into ASDA to look at their books, and I found Richard Wiseman’s ‘:59 seconds’ for £3.98 and it makes more sense that THE BOOK OF ANSWERS ever could.


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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