PSICAN - Paranormal Studies and Inquiry Canada

Written by Matthew James Didier

Debunking the Auto-Debunkers...

Ghosts aren't real... Nope, they're not... Just ask the "so-called sceptics".

I say "so-called" because scepticism means to have doubts, not to deny out of hand. To need to "see to believe", not to "disbelieve without evidence of non-existence." If I catch you walking along with a bottle of water and you say to me, "This is the best tasting water in the world!", and I say, "I dunno, I'm sceptical.", I am not saying that the water does not exist and can not exist and is not even close to being the "best in the world", I'm saying I need to try it to believe it.

That said, why do so many "remote-debunkers" say that ghosts don't exist?

Well, I can tell you...

#1: There's no evidence to support the existence of ghosts.

True... to a point. The evidence to date is not iron-clad, but it does exist. Not only that, but there's so much witness testimony of "things ghostly" that it really can't be ignored. To say there's "no" evidence is incorrect. To say that there's no "perfect" evidence would be better... and without perfect evidence to say "yea" or "nay", no one should proclaim something's existence or non-existence.

2: People that say they experienced a ghost are crazy.

Really? Wow, there's a lot of crazy people out there then and they're all over the world and holding normal jobs and many have normal lives... except they've experienced something "paranormal", if you will.

Now, the better question is, did they experience something "supernatural", or "natural" and misperceived that experience? The experience is, no doubt, genuine to most, but I sincerely doubt (heck, I know) that the lion's share of people that experience ghosts aren't crazy, nuts, insane or mentally ill in any fashion. Nor is everyone who's mentally ill a believer or "experiencer" of the paranormal.

I recently had a "vent-a-thon" on Skeptics[sic] Canada's message board with someone who used statistics to 'prove' that it is "mental illness" which is responsible for the upswing in interest in the paranormal right now. His stats bore some interest except... The mental illness he was showing in these stats was 'depression'. Indeed, many people do have undiagnosed depression. My question to him, show me where depression has led to hallucinations or belief in the paranormal more so than people who don't suffer. The answer to this... There is no evidence to support that claim.

Carl Sagan, the late astronomer who "flip-flopped" on his views of certain paranormal things is attributed to saying, "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." This quote is often tossed out by so-called sceptics. There's a problem though... The originator of the quote is actually the late Marcello Truzzi who was one of the founders of The Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (or CSICOP) who left the group he helped found when he felt they had become "deniers" rather than "doubters". In his later years, he said he wished he changed the quote... "Claims require evidence." In other words, all claims, regardless, require evidence. This includes claims of non-existence.

Remember: It was Sagan that did say (although there is some question of him being the originator of this too...) "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

So, are all these people crazy that report ghosts? Highly unlikely.

#3: People that experience ghosts are hallucinating or imagining things.

Okay... what about something experienced by multiple witnesses? Mass hallucination is occasionally tossed out, but the environment to make this happen is so difficult to obtain, it's next to impossible to say that this is the case.

How about experiences from "uncorrupted witnesses" on a site at different times that mirror the previous experience? This happens a lot.

Not a lot of places (believe it or not) advertise or promote their ghost... or, at least, not all the ghost stories. What happens then when people experience the same thing at different times who were not in contact with each other?

Now, this differs from a "corrupted" witness" this is someone who knows the stories and is more or less "pre-programmed" to experience "something" at that spot.

A perfect example, albeit not in Toronto, is the "Haunted Gallery" in Hampton Court Palace in London England. Anyone who's visited the site and does a little digging finds out the terrible story of Henry VIII's fifth wife, Catherine Howard, who was being held at the palace before having her noggin lopped off, breaking free from her guards and running down the hall to the King's private chapel... Once reaching there, she banged on the locked door begging for mercy, only to be dragged back to her apartments by her guards. Since then, the "ghostly" run and sounds have been heard by many! "Icky feelings" are even more common and I admit, on my visit, I felt a little weird at the King's door...

Problem is, historically it's poppycock.

Catherine, while under suspicion and staying at the palace... but she thought that the King was "bending". He wrote her love notes (on record) and even told her he disbelieved the reports of her crimes. He left not too long after for a hunting trip (a trip that usually lasted several weeks) and sent her a loving note saying he would send for her once he was settled.

A month or so later, she was moved to a nunnery in haste (during which, again, she still thought she'd beat the rap... sending someone on a trip like this during a trial wasn't unheard of) and it was at the nunnery that she finally learned of her last trip... to the Tower of London. This would have been when she figured out that things weren't going to well.

So, the run would have had to happen when Catherine thought all was well. She would have run to a room she knew was empty, banging on the door and begging for mercy about a crime she thought she had all but beaten.

Not too likely, eh?

None-the-less, a plethora of reports still come in about the "haunted gallery".

Is it because there is a "ghostly presence" there? It's possible. Is it because people assume it's haunted and their minds make the "logical" leap? It's as possible... if not more so.

Ergo: Most people in Hampton Court experiencing something in the gallery are "corrupted witnesses".

Now, how about this...

When we started covering reports from Fort George in Niagara-on-the-Lake, we knew some of the stories... but little by little, something started to happen...

First was a report saying that while walking between the current canteen/gift shop, a feeling of sadness so overwhelming, it led to tears with the witness... To be honest, we noted it, but never posted the information.

The another... same place... same thing. Again, we noted, but didn't post.

Then a third... and a fourth... all at different times, all different people... and not all of them were "ghost enthusiasts" or terribly interested in ghosts at all.

We did go and do a cover-all atmosphere check... trying to find anything (magnetics, the even-ness of the land in the space, etc.) to find out if there was a possible natural cause for this "emotion" at this location... We came up blank.

This is one example... there's plenty more. Are these people all hallucinating? It's very unlikely.

#4: People that say they experience weird things are lying.

This one almost doesn't bear looking into. Why on Earth would someone lie about their own home and risk devaluing the property value and being thought of as "crazy"?

Although there are well known hoaxes, (Amityville being a prime example) where someone's tried to make a buck off a paranormal experiences, these are few and far between... in fact, the cases that are proven hoaxes are so limited, it's negligible to even consider this in many cases.

For the most part, people that experience weird things want to remain anonymous and if it's happened in their home or business, they almost never publicise the event.

Most of the people that contact me are looking for one of two things... they want it "debunked" to prove it was all a mistake, or they want validation. If they were liars, it's unlikely they'd want either of these things... much like the Lutz family of Amityville fame, they'd ignore proper investigation in search of the folks that would simply support their "paranormal view".

If someone subscribes to this "answer" to paranormal events, this show there are a lot of liars... all around the globe... and our stats don't bear this out.

5: People who experience these things are making mistakes. They are attributing the 'natural' for the 'supernatural'.

Hey! Guess what? I won't argue this one!

Many times, 'paranormal experiences' can be "answered" by eliminating the normal from the paranormal... There is no doubt that, on occasion, it truly is "just the wind".

The job of the paranormal investigator is to figure this part out. There is no doubt that on occasion, the witnesses "will to believe" will overshadow the "inconvenient facts", but again, it's rare and normally, it's pretty easy (to a degree) to figure out for an investigator.

An investigator's job is to be a genuine sceptic... to doubt and look for better evidence without denying that things exist or running on the blind faith that they must exist. A neutral or "agnostic" view of the phenomena and it's causation.

If one uses this, they can usually separate what might be the "unknown" from the natural phenomena mistaken for the paranormal... and that's essential.

Does this mean all investigations lead to a "natural" answer? I wish it did... to be honest, some things don't add up and no, there aren't "perfect fits" and natural answers for all reports of the paranormal. These things seem to happen. They are experienced... and most of all, they are real... especially to those that have them happen to themselves.

That's why it's the "unknown"... and it does, indeed, exist.