Monday, November 2, 2015

Not a Healthy Enough Imagination

Because I have the time to do things that interest me these days, I attend a monthly meeting at the local library that reminiscences about historical subjects, mostly pertaining to our neck of the woods but not always. This month the meeting was supposed to be about the "Myths and Truths About Ghosts and Apparitions." I was expecting a talk about that had some subjectivity to it but instead, what I listened to was a young lady who hunts ghosts for a living basically tell us the names of all the things in her world. As near as I can relate, it was like reading the Hobbit and having Tolkien name all the things in the Hobbit worlds. It wasn't about laying out an argument for ghosts.

After an exhausting hour of listening to the speaker talk of how they classify everything and what they use to record their research which happened to be mostly cameras and voice recorders, the speaker quickly showed us some examples of paranormal activity that she has witnessed.

She had three sets of camera stills taken "back to back" where in one, there was something that to my eye, looked like a light reflection from the flash since of course, all were taken in darkened rooms. I put the words back to back that she used in her speak in quotation marks because either through bad editing or movement between frames, they weren't composed in the exact same spot. You could notice differences in the margins of things that were visible in one but not the other. To me, this points to possibly reflections from angles instead of "mists" or "apparitions staring out windows."

Ninety percent of her evidence that she presented was audio recordings. According to her, they routinely ask questions to ghosts that aren't visible to them and are not audible but when they play back the audio they recorded, often times they hear responses. Now I had several problems with this evidence. First, it was played in some sort of program where you could label sections of the audio and she had done so with what the ghosts supposedly said. If I closed my eyes before seeing the labels, the audio just sounded like static and background noises. If I opened my eyes and listened (and thus reading the labels as the player got to that part) on maybe two of them I could hear something that vaguely sounded like what she was suggestions. On most of them, it still sounded like random noises. The second thing was that on most of them, she increased the playback speed to two or three times normal and also increased the volume on the portions of the playback in question. What I got was incredibly loud static with some subtle sounds in the background that she interpreted as answers to her questions by paranormal subjects.

Perhaps it is the engineer in me but while listening to this evidence, I couldn't help but think that if I were wanting to make a believer of someone, I would take some high definition high speed video of a paranormal event. But of the list of her equipment, there were no video cameras listed. But she did include one very grainy video that was taken in a darkened room showing a lady holding dowsing rods. Camera flashes were going off as people around took pictures which made the camera struggle to keep its focus. After about 30 seconds of watching this, the lady holding the dowsing rods bends her hands at the wrist and the dowsing rods moved. The speak asked, "did you see the dowsing rods move?" As the dowsing rods moved, what little light was in the room reflected off of the ends of them as they moved which the speaker pointed out was an apparition jumping off the rods which she has never seen before or since.

I don't think I was the only one not buying what this lady was selling because towards the end of the speech, people started walking out and by the time I left, the audience was half of what was started. I have never seen anyone walk out of one of these library meetings before so to me, that was saying something. During the question session, someone asked if people who were willing to believe were more likely to see "things" than those who weren't so willing to believe. She responded with some long answer about everyone having abilities but with different levels like someone who plays the piano really well but can't play an oboe. I'm not sure what her answer really was.

Not one to be rude, I remained seated during the question session as three people, who obviously were believers, kept asking her what she thought about various paranormal events that had happened to them in their lives. Two of the three were people I have never seen before at these events and were young females compared to the largely retired status shared by most of the crowd. The third was someone I know but based on other experiences I have had with her, I take what she tells me with a grain of salt. The questions kept on coming and people kept on leaving. Had I been the speaker I would have said thank you all for coming and if you have more questions please feel free to come up and ask me. However it never came and since I obviously didn't have a healthy enough imagination to believe what she was selling me, I finally gave up and joined the crowd heading for the doors.


sage said...

I think I would prefer to hear Bill Murray talk about ghosts :)

Ed said...

Sage - I have never heard Bill Murray talk about ghosts, other than in Ghostbusters, but I completely agree!

Kelly said...

This sounds like a nightmare scenario and while I normally try to be polite, I have a feeling you were far more so than I could have been.

I don't mind the occasional ghost story (in book or film form), but for the most part I tend to shy away from the paranormal. I do think it's fun to hear local folklore (which is what I might have imagined from something like your event) about unexplained sightings or whatever in connection with local places. Every area (especially rural ones) has their share. One of my favorites around here is the "Fouke Monster". (google it!)

Ed said...

Kelly - I like hearing folklore too and haunted houses in the area. However I draw the line at listening to someone go into detail of how a voice recorder is a vital part of proving the existence of ghosts that you can't see or hear.

I wonder is the Fouke Monster is a cousin to Bigfoot or if one or the other vacations in the other location?

Kelly said...

Oh, I think they have relatives all over the world. ;)

Bob said...

Hi Ed -- Found you at Kelly's blog and I enjoyed this post about "ghosts!" I suppose ones takes his chances when going to a lecture at the library. Kelly and I grew up in the same area and I'm quite familiar with the Fouke monster of which she writes. Wonder if Kelly remembers a (really awful) movie that was made about it!

Kelly said...

Bob...I not only remember it, I own it. (The Legend of Boggy Creek) I also have The Town That Dreaded Sundown, which is based on actual events surrounding a serial killer in the Texarkana area in the 1940s. Both quite cheesy.