"You're crazy for believing that!"
While recently at my old game of checking out message boards and sites about ghosts and hauntings, one of the bigger boards in the states had something going on that really got my goat... as usual.
Now, some of you might read this and say "Hey! Blatant self interest! You admit this is a field of interest to you and that fiancée of your's is into this stuff, isn't she???"
Well, yes... but let me explain all...
As occasionally happens, someone posted to a large "ghost" message board a report of sighting a UFO. The post was labeled "off topic" and was a generic "I saw a weird disk in the sky moving erratically" kind of thing... nothing terribly special... but the responses were less than intelligent, in my humble opinion.
Like clockwork, the "ghost purists" jumped up and, for lack of a better term, mocked and basically ridiculed the report. They made comments like "Oh yeah? Did E.T. phone home using your cell phone?" and "UFO reports don't belong here. We're dealing with *real* paranormal phenomena."
This kind of attitude boggles me, personally.
You see, on this message board and these posters to it, the idea that a small, round, somewhat transparent dot on a photo is a "genuine ghost" is completely acceptable... The thought that they ran into a spectral being (not necessarily 'human') that ordered them to leave via "psychic impression" is absolutely reasonable... The concept of a smokey mist photographed in a cemetery in winter cold is definite proof of an apparition is not a reach... But the concept of someone glancing into the sky and seeing something flying about that the person couldn't quite place as a "normal" thing? Well, that's just crazy!
Yup, the traditional "We're not loopy, you're the one who's loopy for YOUR beliefs!" at play.
From a psychological standpoint, one might hypothesize this is based on "transference" or, in layman's terms, the "ghost purist" who are tired of being told that ghosts may not exist, pick up the mantel and start whining that another type of unknown phenomena cannot exist. It allows them to feel the "superior intellectual" role of resident sceptic to a "weird" belief... despite their own beliefs in the paranormal.
Now, in fairness, there were three "loud" anti-UFO ghost-folks on this board (who do match the items I listed above about orbs, mists, and psychic warnings,) and about five other responders who answered with a more tempered reply.
Since the poster of the sighting had indeed said that the subject of their message was "off topic", they really hadn't broken any rules. They didn't claim anything above and beyond the idea they saw a strange "thing" moving erratically over head... and they had posted, many times before this, on the topic of ghosts, there was no real issue with most... again, just the three "ghost purists" ballyhooed the item. You see, to them, belief in UFOs apparently equals "insanity" and belief in ghosts, well, that's just normal and sane.
Here's a table to think about below...
| Particular Paranormal/Weird Belief || Ghosts || UFOs || Elvis Sightings in the 1980's |
| Witnesses || Many are 'normal' and don't ever expect to see one. || Many are 'normal' and don't ever expect to see one. || Many are 'normal' and didn't expect to see him. |
| Evidence Presented || Witness Testimony, Photographs, Recordings, Films || Witness Testimony, Photographs, Recordings, Films, Occasional "Hard Evidence" Left Behind || Witness Testimony, Photographs, Recordings, Films, Occasional "Hard Evidence" Left Behind |
| Most Normally Seen In... || Tabloid Newspapers, Bad Television Programs. || Tabloid Newspapers, Bad Television Programs. || Tabloid Newspapers, Bad Television Programs. |
| Witnesses often report feeling... || Firm belief in what they saw and a bit confused... || Firm belief in what they saw and a bit confused... || Firm belief in what they saw and a bit confused... |
| Often, the "rational" answer to what the witness saw is... || Experiencing a case of mistaken identity or misinterpretation of what they saw. Natural rather than supernatural. || Experiencing a case of mistaken identity or misinterpretation of what they saw. Natural or man-made rather than supernatural. || Experiencing a case of mistaken identity or misinterpretation of what they saw. Not the king but simply one of his subjects. |
| "Normal People" or The Mainstream Most Often... || Mock and ridicule believers and enthusiasts. || Mock and ridicule believers and enthusiasts. || Mock and ridicule believers and die-hard fans. |
| The Belief is most often thought to be... || Based on faith and experience. || Based on faith and experience. || Based on faith and experience. |
No, I'm not saying I believe that poor old Elvis was alive and kicking in 1989 working at a Seven-Eleven in Pittsburgh, just that sometimes, people in glass houses should not be throwing stones.
It takes a certain amount of legitimate silliness to state that one belief, or another, is completely baseless and mock a believer in it... especially when stating, publicly, that you yourself have a specific belief that may be considered "fringe" at best.
Now, the argument I have had, oddly enough from a sceptdebunker, about this is "Well, what do you do when you meet someone who believes that the internet is actually run through trees? What if they believe that trees are the conduit through which the data that is 'the 'Net' runs through?"
I pointed out that, since I am a technician and have the knowledge and know-how and was even a very successful technical trainer, I would educate them. For the three minutes it would take, I'd sit down, use diagrams if necessary, and let them know how the 'Net worked... Ridiculing them and mocking them will not change their perception and beliefs... Educating them might and if nothing else, it may spur them into looking into the situation more carefully.
Way back when, if I said that "psychic surgeons are frauds", would you blindly believe it? You might and I wouldn't have completely faulted you, but when Penn and Teller or James "The Amazing" Randi demonstrated how the psychic surgeons ply their trade, did it sink in better then with most folks?
Even in the still hotly debated "ghostly" topic of orb and mist photographs... Most organizations have stopped accepting these items as "evidence" and "proof", but people still argue that these items are proof of ghostly manifestation. They misunderstand the evidence and data at hand. They assume, incorrectly, that the dust, smoke or particles must be visible to the naked eye to be photographed or that the "argument" is there's something sticky or goopy on the lens of their camera... which is not the true data, and most folks know to be the case thanks to the work of Fuji Films and Dr. Bruce Maccabee.
(If anyone is reading this and still does not understand what the critique is of orbs and mists, please click here and print out this document and read it thoroughly... I guarantee it will help you understand or, if nothing else, give you the "alternate argument" to the belief in orb and mist photographs.)
Granted, can I say, personally, 100% for sure that ALL orbs and mists aren't ghosts? Nope.
I can say that because of the ease of a mistake, number of possible chances of grabbing a photo by mistake that has an orb or two and a mist which is not "ghostly" in nature, when I see one, I have to equate it very much to going to downtown Toronto on a busy Summer afternoon at about 4:30pm and taking a crowd shot from a high tower and saying to an investigator, "See the 1,234th person on the left, 256th row up? He's dressed in the dark suit? He wasn't there! He was a ghost!"
He might have been, but I doubt anyone could accept it as "proof" or "evidence"... unless he was levitating five or six feet off the ground and this was obvious in the photo.
Still, is the belief worth "mocking"? Of course not... In this case, as I've done above, I've not only expressed my view, I've explained it and given data to reinforce my case.
Now, back to the original topic, do I believe in UFO sightings? Absolutely! In essence, what is a UFO? Does it mean "spaceship from another planet"? No, that's the connotation most get, but in actuality, it just means something "flying" that the witness "cannot identify".
One of my weird savants and studies is aircraft recognition. I spend a lot of time watching aircraft and enjoy keeping up on developments in aviation... Still, can I identify every plane? Nope.
Can I say that every UFO sighting is a case of mistaken identity? Nope.
Can I say that it's all nonsense to believe that something "otherwordly" is flying about around here? Not with any degree of certainty.
Can I say that everyone who's seen a ghost actually saw a ghost? Nope... not at all.
Effectively, can we say, with certainty that any "paranormal" belief is more or less "authentic" than the next? Not really...
Although, in my OPINION only, if you're waiting for the second coming of Elvis... you may want to move on with life a wee bit.
After all, he'd be 69 years old in 2004, and after a steady diet of fried banana sandwiches, his arteries would be in pretty rough shape!
So, the next time you (or someone) gain-says 'X' belief is nonsense and only whackos buy into it, remind them that this is an opinion... unless they really have a lot of data to bring to the table.