A Skeptic In A Haunted World

by Tony Harrington

I am intrigued by the paranormal.

Since man has been capable of higher thought they have been telling ghost stories. From the caveman around the fire to a bestselling author telling the tale of a haunted hotel, people have been fascinated by that which they do not understand.

Let’s face it, we want to be scared. It is an adrenaline rush to be terrified. Nightmares creep the hell out of us when we have them but we can’t wait to tell anyone who will listen about the terrors we experienced during our slumber.

Knowing that we are addicted to fear and how we get our fix plays a lot into the ghost phenomenon. Blame the SyFy Channel and their smash hit “Ghost Hunters”, and the many knock offs to have come about since, for revitalizing the paranormal industry.

There are die hard enthusiasts, of course. People who believe in ghosts have undoubtedly experienced something in their past that they cannot explain and when all evidence has been weighed and measured they are left with the possibility that they have experienced something otherworldly.

Have I experienced something like that? Hard to say, so as a result I say I am a healthy skeptic. I am intrigued that something is out there and scientifically speaking it is a possibility. If we consider that our human bodies are a mass of energy, when a traumatic event (Murder, suicide, sudden death) occurs that energy has to go somewhere. Why not out in the open?

The belief in ghosts may also be a coping mechanism. For some, the idea that we can exist after our bodies have left the earth gives us a sense of peace that there is something after death. I won’t call it life, but the possibility that we somehow go on and can interact with those we left behind provides a sense of calm to some.

The thing with a haunting and ghosts that is most frustrating, and a large part of the reason I am a skeptic ,is the fact that it is hard to prove. You can go on pure faith and take claims at face value, but that is a naïve approach. And facts like photos and EVP (Electronic voice Phenomenon) are not a solid way to prove a haunting.

Photos can be doctored and EVP’s are dodgy at best. When we listen to a voice recording where an alleged disembodied voice is present we want to hear a response to our questions from the other side. Any ambient noise we hear then becomes suspect. A passing car, the air conditioning, a ceiling fan or a glitch in the electrical components of the very recorder being used can cause an anomaly that when listened to repeatedly and closely scrutinized can become, in our minds, a whispered phrase from the dead.

I am not saying there are no legitimate EVP’s and that there are not ghosts speaking to us through this method, but my analytical mind compared to a more open mind of a firm believer does not allow me to accept that what I am hearing is indeed a voice. Most EVP’s caught are heard only through the power of suggestion.

The same can be attributed to ghostly faces and images in photos. Camera straps and photographer fingers can be caught in a picture, as can breath in the cold air, and cigarette smoke. All these factors can result in photos containing paranormal evidence that when viewed with an optimistic eye can be seen as proof that ghosts exist.

Our human minds are designed to make sense out of chaos; we are also wired to recognize faces. Walk into a room filled with people and the first thing we do is scan faces. It’s a defense and  social mechanism to scope out people we are familiar with and make note of those with whom  we aren’t.

It is the same reason we see Jesus in Toast and Mary in water stains on a wall. That is how we are built, a throwback to our animal lineage.  So, it is no wonder we see ghosts in shadows. Has any evidence of a ghost existed in broad daylight? Every movie, TV show and picture takes place at night or in poorly lit conditions where elongated shadows can morph into apparitions as our eyes send the warbled images to our brain to be processed. One minute we see a dark hallway and suddenly we see a shadow moving among the dark recesses.

These examples are broad, I understand, but I use them to defend my skepticism because they are a solid foundation. A moving glass across a countertop could be a moisture vacuum. It could also be a ghost, but Occam ’s razor theory dictates that when two conflicting pieces of evidence present themselves, the most logical answer is usually the correct one.

For a glass to move across the counter untouched we are presented with two possible evidences. 1) A ghost manifested itself, walked amongst us, placed an unseen hand on the glass and moved it or 2) moisture on the glass formed a vacuum against the table and the resulting reaction caused the glass to move.  The simplest answer is 2 and as a result we go with it. It also is a phenomenon that can be recreated and thus debunks the theory that cannot.

With all of this said though, there have been things I have witnessed that cannot be debunked, personal experiences that I have investigated to the Nth degree and have not been able to reproduce. So, does that mean it is paranormal? Possibly. Or it means I am not scientific enough to understand what I saw and cannot recreate a very real reason for the existence of the anomaly.

Do I believe in ghosts? I am not ready to say yes to this…but I am not sure enough to say no. I am fascinated by the possible existence and want to learn as much as I can and seek out that ever elusive hard evidence. If I never find it in this lifetime at least it will be an adrenaline pumping excursion into the fear of the unknown trying to figure it out.

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