Thursday, February 08, 2007

I want to not believe!

I am quite the sceptic when it comes to most claims relating to paranormal activities or extrasensory powers. Part of what motivates me as a magician is a desire to fake these things because I know of no way to make them happen for real. I know - indeed am friends with - people who do reiki, reflexology, homeopathy. I also know - not surprisingly given my own history - people who are priests, ministers and vicars. And don't even start me on astrology. Seriously.

None of these things convinces me. Especially astrology. My doubts about astrology are even more deep-seated than my doubts about the existence of god. And that's saying something, since these days I lump god in with santa and the tooth fairy.

There is, however, one area where I find that my own experience, the experience of others, and other incidental evidence seems to be too much to be dismissed.

Ghosts.

I don't mean anything to do with those awful TV shows where some cold reader milks their audience for information that they then use to demonstrate that they are communicating with those who are "in spirit". Or where the vile Liverpudlian fraud Derek Acorah channels the spirit of some made-up ghost that was invented by the owner of a castle that does a roaring trade by claiming to be "Most Haunted". That's all just entertainment, although it's frightening and worrying that so many people take it seriously. And seem to think that the TV production company would never do anything such as hook up an object to move "of its own accord". Despite the fact that it makes for better television and is more likely to keep the presenters and everyone involved in the show in employment. Oh yes, no motivation there at all!

Yet however strong my opinions on the likes of Acorah, things pop up with do seem to smack of authenticity, and which I can't dismiss so readily. Last year, when I was working in Norwich, I met up with a group of women who were celebrating a 60th birthday. I did some magic for the birthday girl, and her daughter showed me a photo that she had taken earlier in the evening. They had been in the restaurant, near the middle nowhere near any glass or other reflective surfaces. The birthday girl had left an empty chair for her best friend, who had died of cancer a few months earlier. At one point, she put her arm around the empty chair, and "welcomed" the deceased friend to the party. The daughter took a photo of this touching moment, and in the empty chair, there was an indistinct ball of dull light. She showed me other photos from the evening, and the phenomenon wasn't present in any other snap.

I used to live in a house in Walthamstow that had a very strong "presence", and on one occasion, having left the house empty for a few minutes, I returned to find that every window was wide open.

My sister and her partner used to live in place where there were frequent sightings of a figure moving between the kitchen and the bedroom.

Even Lovely Husband™, who claims not to believe in ghosts, had a rather spooky experience or two in one of the schools that he used to work in.

I acknowledge that I am more likely to believe other peoples' accounts when it concerns ghost stories than I am when it concerns being cured by homoepathy or having had a very accurate astrological reading. However, the reason that I might be more lenient is that I understand the mechanisms that can make those latter things seem possible. Ghosts, on the other hand, I have a harder time explaining.

7 comments:

Tickersoid said...

Every time I encounter the unexplained, I immediately file it under 'Unexplained'. I don't consider this a big deal or even give it a second thought.

Your post is a very nice story though.

Nick said...

I've had quite a few experiences such as the ones you describe - I've heard voices coming from another room in an otherwise empty house, taken photographs of lights and strange shadows that I can't replicate, had things disappear only to turn up in the most ridiculous and unlikely of places, and in one heart-stopping moment, saw a black figure walk past the bedroom door in my old house whilst I was looking directly at it - no glimpsing out of the corner of my eye that time...

Are they dead people? Are they just part of the natural world that exist in ways we can't detect with our limited five senses? There are so many senses we don't have - night vision, infrared vision, echolocation, magnetosenses... perhaps they are all around us and we just don't know it...

BEAST said...

I used to live in a flat in london and used to see a person flitting about all the time , my brother had a window and door opening experience on a number of occasions in his house , but I have to say that altho I dont believe in the daily horoscope stuff I think the character assesment come sometimes be scarely spot on.My Ma as an experiment cast each granchilds personality horoscope when they where born (using some kit someone bought her for xmas) about 15 years later she opened all the profiles when all the familly was about and we had to guess which profile was which child....... they were amazingly accurate.

Jay said...

I tend to make a point of not reading anything where people talk about their supernatural experiences, but I made an exception this time - and I'm regretting it!

I am terribly chicken shit when it comes to stuff like this, and no matter how benign a spirit might be, I do not want an encounter! Windows all wide open or as Nick submitted up there, a black figure walking past a bedroom door in an empty house - I'm pretty sure I CANNOT survive such things with my sanity intact. So far I have been very lucky in that I've had no such stories to tell.

I have the same views as you regarding the more... out-there complementary therapies, especially the ones relying on energy channels and meridiens and auras. But I do know a lot of practitioners, and they seem to believe in it, so for now, I'll just chalk it up to my own unwillingness to accept what I don't understand.

Who knows, maybe one day they'll find physical proof and scientific explanations as to whether and why these things work.

mutleythedog said...

Where I live Ghosts are quite normal, as are other paranormal creatures such as mermaids, jack-o-lanterns, werewolves etc. Though they are mythical, as are chimera, dryads, and such things, nevertheless they insist on existing...

Brian Sibley said...

Your photo experience is not uncommon. Many 'orbs', as they're called, can be explained by internal reflections in the camera, reflective objects nearby or, if outside, rain, mist, smoke whatever...

But there are others than cannot be so easily explained - indeed we took one such picture ourselves only a day ot two ago...

There are several interesting books on the subject. One, by a couple of friends of mine, is Beyond Photography.

I'm not saying that I personally BELIEVE in this, but that on the basis of the famous Hamlet-to-Horatio comment, we need to consider these things...

Al said...

Nick - I have nine senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing, thermoception, nociception, equilibrioception, and proprioception), not five; Maybe that's why I don't believe in ghosts?

I do, however, believe in the first law of thermodynamics, so perhaps the changing form of energy emitted from a corpse is what some people perceive as a 'spirit' or ghost?