"I've already made up my mind, but I'll ask anyway." - January 26th, 2006
A very wise person once said that "Advice is something you ask for when you already know the answer." In the realm of paranormal studies, truer words have never been spoken when it comes to some of our correspondents.
PSICAN, Torontoghosts, Ontarioghosts, and ParaResearchers... as well as most of our other related groups and sites are admittedly made up of "sceptical" people in the field. This does not mean, as the popular modern definition seems to state, that we deny everything and disbelieve all... that's not scepticism... that's non-belief.
We define "scepticism" as doubt... we question things... we look at all possibilities no matter what the situation.
As such, when someone asks us a question about a situation or event, it's not unusual for us to give several possible answers... including those that don't jive with the concepts that the event and/or situation are paranormal in nature.
For example, when someone asks us our opinion about an instance... say they saw a full apparition by their bed very late one evening... we might immediately ask if they were sleeping or near sleep when it happened and point out that indeed, they must accept the chance that this was nothing more than a dream or yes, even a hallucination caused by exhaustion.
This does not mean we're saying, You're wrong! What you experienced couldn't possibly be a ghost!, it means that we need to examine that possibility... and so should they.
None-the-less, many people want to believe that certain events or experiences are "special" and they do not like hearing the boring facts of any case in terms of looking into "natural" answers instead of purely "supernatural" answers. These folks usually respond back with a rather negative standpoint on what we suggested. Effectively, no one likes to be told they're experience may not be so "special"... but none-the-less, that is a fact that they must embrace if they are truly interested in the paranormal.
What's sadder still is the amount of people out there willing to tell people what they want to hear and not what might be the better answer. There are many reasons for these people who simply spew out what they feel will placate a witness... and not all of them are money.
Sadly, there is a large contingency of folks out there who refer to themselves as investigators, researchers, or simply "ghost hunters" who will automatically tell witnesses all about their "spiritual encounter". It's true (and well documented) that some are out to make a dollar or two on "psychic readings" or "house clearings"... others say these knee-jerk things because it bolsters their own beliefs and faith in things.
Either way, Carl Sagan often gets false credit for originating an important statement... Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
The original statement was made by a fellow named Marcello Truzzi... who was one of the founding members of the arch-"sceptical" group, CSICOP (now called CSI)... or The Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. When CSICOP became nothing more than deniers of things (as executive members of Skeptics(sic) Canada call them, "Auto-Debunkers" or "Remote-Debunkers",) Truzzi left his organisation as he felt that they should be true sceptics... "doubters", not "deniers".
Truzzi also, before his passing on, wished he'd amended his statement about "Extraordinary claims"... to simply say, Claims Require Evidence.
The practical translation is, if someone says something "is so" or if someone says something "cannot be so", they must have evidence to back up their statement.
It behooves the real investigator and researcher to understand this... and to be honest when someone comes for help or information. Effectively, it's the ethical thing to do.
Can I prove that a witness or someone looking for answers is wrong? Can I prove they are correct in their interpretations of events?
If the answer is "no" to both these statements, then as an investigator and researcher with a good deal of credibility, I need to present all possibilities... and tell the person they must be open-minded enough to examine all of them.
I have to use an example here to illustrate what I'm speaking of... but if these witnesses read this, we had seven similar situations presented to us in December and January and I'm amalgamating them into a sort-of singular example... although things may have been a touch different, they all were relatively similar.
In January, as stated, we were hit with a lot of cases of sudden things where young children were seeing ghosts at night in their bedroom.
Now, in the seven cases, some people wanted answers and looked into all possibilities, some people "knew" the answers for themselves (their child was obviously psychic and was seeing ghosts) and wanted confirmation from an authority, and some wanted to whip right into "house-clearing/exorcism" mode.
We noticed the seven cases had alarming similarities...
- All young children (under eight years of age)
- All of them seeing things at night
- All of them "started" seeing things in late December/early January
- All of them needed parental help going back to sleep because of their fear
- Not terribly surprising, but we noticed it seemed to be in Ontario only... looking through other message boards and sites seemed to show this was a "localized situation"
Now, some of our witnesses/folks had gone to other online resources for other opinions... and were told things like...
- Children are closer to the "veil" of life and death. They are naturally more psychic.
- In the winter, a season where things are in sleep, spirits are far more active and seeking attention and are naturally drawn to children.
...and the list went on and on... some places suggesting immediate house clearings and/or psychic testing on the child.
We, on the other hand, asked one question before moving forward (and in some cases, the answer was already volunteered to us...)
Has anyone other than the child witnessed or experienced these things?
It's surprising how many "so called" authorities neglected this simple question... and in our seven cases, the answer was "no".
This still did not mean there was no possibility of "the paranormal"... but looking at the facts, we started coming up with other answers...
First of all, looking at the date... around Christmas. This is a time most children are allowed to stay up very late... and also a time when they're excited and can't sleep.
Next, most kids are off school on vacation... again, later bedtimes and whatnot.
Lastly, and with some sleuthing from one of our researchers, there had been a "marathon" of ghostly programs during the holidays on the big children's cable network in the province.
Some might see this last one and go Aha! There's the answer! but is it? Did we just happen to hear about seven kids who saw the same TV shows and got spooked?
...or is it a combination of all of these items?
...or is it genuine "ghosts"?
Our answer was to tell the people who wrote to us looking for a suggestion was this...
Ask the child to write-down what they're seeing and why. Ask them to try and figure out why the "ghosts" are there.
...most importantly, if the parents or guardians are very concerned, ask them to stay with the child until they are well asleep... and see if they experience anything themselves or the child experiences anything with the adult(s) there.
We warned them not to "stifle" the child's reports... but not to overly encourage them either.
Stifling them means you may put stress on the child to "cover things up"... too much encouragement and they will tell you only what they think you want to hear. Either way, it's bad... so a happy medium must be found.
Out of the seven, four reported that the mystery was solved... and that it was a kid who didn't want to go to bed on time. Three never got back to us... which, in itself, is a bit telling as we did say we'd assist in any way we could should "more things" come out of these issues.
Of those three, I can guarantee you that at least one of them did not investigate... and simply knew that their kid was seeing dead people.
The reason I'm so certain is because I know the one balked hard at our suggestions... in fact, they were indignant that we would accuse their child of lying... which, oddly enough, we didn't... but because we included all our thoughts, which did include both the "natural" and the "supernatural"... and not just the one... we were bad.
My question, although I didn't ask the person myself, is if you already know the answer, why ask the question?
Our experience has taught us that it's not because they want an answer... they want validation to their existing hypothesis as to what's happening... and when they don't receive it or receive more than one possibility, many people become upset with the response.
Many of those people will then keep hunting around for someone who will tell them what they want to hear... and as stated earlier, they will find someone who will say what they want to hear without issue eventually... and in some cases, it may cost some money.
The point of this document is really two-fold...
To Investigators and Researchers: If you're honestly interested in the phenomenon and want to study it and learn about it, you must be open minded... and when that's said, this does not mean "only open minded" to the paranormal possibilities, but to the possibilities of normal events and experiences being misinterpreted.
To Witnesses and Those Seeking Information: The Greek stoic philosopher, Epictetus once said, It is impossible for any one to begin to learn what he thinks that he already knows. which, translated here means, If you feel you already know an answer and are really only looking for approval or "authentication" of that answer... and you're unprepared to hear anything different, perhaps you should hold the question... or, ask it and realise there me be some debate on the answer.
If you're truly looking for evidence or answers... then ask... and look at all possibilities. Realistically, once you've examined all these options equally, the truth of things will usually become very clear.
...and if someone tells you something IS a ghost... or if someone tells you something ISN'T a ghost... demand evidence... of them and yourself.
Matthew James Didier