More response to Dikkii. This argument's petering out, I think. Anyone else want to chime in?
...you’re going to have to make some calls that you won’t like.
This includes acceptance of more mundane explanations for anything other than repeatable sightings.
I do that all the time. I’m not at all interested in orb sightings, and those rods had been demonstrated to be insects before I even found out about them. You assume I’m starting from the premise that every investigation is a real haunting. I am not. I start looking for alternative explanations from the moment I hear the first report. Flickering lights? Check the wiring in the switch first. That’s very common among older UK houses. You can ‘exorcise’ that one with a screwdriver.
In other words, you are, for example, going to have to explain how you are 100% convinced that someone wasn’t, for example, hallucinating when they saw something.
I can’t be convinced about that. Ever. Someone else’s sighting might lead me to look into the matter, but there needs to be more than one sighting, and by different people. One thing I have in common with Randi, I suppose – you won’t convince me 100% unless I see it for myself. Except I’m not offering a million dollars.
Explaining why you are 100% convinced that there was no hoaxes perpetrated.
That takes a looong time. Example: nowadays I’m not much interested in those hotel haunts unless it’s really spectacular. Haunts are good for business, and in a hotel there are too many rooms and cupboards for someone to hide in and tap the walls, or moan through the vents. That doesn’t mean all their ghosts are fakes, of course, but it means it’s extremely hard to be certain there’s no fakery going on. Almost impossible to reach 100% certainty, I’d say. With no chance of reaching certainty, there's no point investigating. Hotels will need a full apparition, seen by multiple people, before I'll pay for a room.
Optical illusions, corneal imperfections, lights, mirrors, carbon monoxide poisoning etc. You have to explain away each of these possibilities explicitly. Even then, you won’t catch all of them.
Optical illusions are extremely common. Lens flare, film imperfections, a leaky camera (red lines on film, usually), reflections from dust, breath, mirrors, and any other polished surface, floaters in the eye (I have these so I recognize the symptoms), too slow shutter speed so moving lights form streaks… the list grows by the day. Digital cameras have caused a flood of new artifacts. Doesn’t make life easy.
You should immediately dismiss anything that is not regularly repeated.
Your comments suggest that you think I, and anyone else interested in the subject, is a gullible idiot. I’ve covered all these points and more on the blog. I’ve even documented a couple of my own ‘failures’, although they weren’t failures from a scientific point of view. I found an explanation, there was a conclusion, it just wasn’t paranormal.
You also have to accept that you are prone to error and that you can be affected personally by, for example, the four H's - hysteria, hypnogogia, hoax and hallucination. I personally get the odd hypnogogic hallucination from time to time, but I only have myself to blame for that.
Me? Prone to error? Seriously, I’ve never had an hysterical reaction to anything, but I’ve seen many. There’s also the common mistake that I made myself in my early days – going out for a night’s investigation after a full and active day. Very, very bad idea. By dawn, everything looks alive. Hypnogogia occurs as you fall asleep or wake up, but fatigue can cause hallucinations, and worse, it can make you very open to suggestions. I’ll post about that – it happens a lot. Hoax, I think I’ve made my position clear on that one.
We all hear so much about haunted houses. I lived in one for 5 years. Didn’t hear so much as a bump in the night. But the previous occupants swear blind that ghostly apparitions regularly appeared on an almost weekly basis. You have to accept that people can and do make exaggerated claims.
Well, of course I accept that. I’ve already said as much. Every story gets embellished because, let’s face it, a set of footsteps doesn’t sound too impressive. Easily explained by cooling structures in any building. So you get ‘it touched me’, which often you can replicate by simple and definitely non-paranormal means. Okay, it doesn’t prove the subject wasn’t touched, but it does show that they could have mistaken something simple for a touch. Ever sat in front of your computer and felt a touch to your head? A lock of hair shifting will do that. I will admit to a certain malicious delight in pretending to call up the ghost, and asking for a repeat touch on the subject (who has their eyes closed). I always admit it afterwards, naturally.
I’m not going to ask where the house is because from what you say, it’s not going to be interesting. If I found it while the previous occupants were in place, I’d have to find out a lot about them. Do they drink? Take drugs? Have they placed heavy furniture against a non-supporting wall? When did they last bleed the radiators? Many, many questions before I settle in for a night. I actually have a radiator bleed key in my equipment case, because I’m amazed at how many people don’t realize you need to do that.
All of this is mandatory before you can even begin to consider your classic (or even non-standard) ghost story. And when you do, it has to be repeatable.
I think we’ve come full circle. You’re not saying anything I haven’t already answered.
Even then, only a demonstration in front of skeptical bunch of onlookers will convince anyone.
Exactly true. I started out debunking fake mediums. It was easy work, daytime, in warm places. I could have carried on, there are plenty left and now they’re even on the TV. Then I experienced just such a ‘demonstration’.
I’ve experienced more since. No point going into details because just like photos or videos, relating a singlet observation proves nothing. It’s bad science. All it would do is let you label me ‘credulous woo-merchant’, and that would be a reasonable thing to do in those circumstances.
My position is currently this. I know there’s something that science hasn’t documented that’s capable of producing inexplicable events. It’s capable of producing an image of a human, and of interacting with people. My working hypothesis, based on my own observation, is that these are dead people. I can’t produce proof of any of the above so am wide open to anyone who wants to have a little chortle behind their fingers. Can’t be helped.
It’s a phenomenon. I’ve experienced it. I’m a scientist, have been for a long time. I can’t just let it go. Sure, I might go to my grave without finding proof, although then I’ll know for certain but it’ll be too late to tell anyone. Perhaps my funeral will be surrounded by chortlers. Perhaps my headstone will read ‘Here lies Romulus Crowe. He was nuts.’ Too bad. I’ve observed something unusual and I’m not going to just drop it.
If you haven’t observed anything like it yourself, then sure, go ahead and call me a gullible moron. Why not? I used the term an awful lot myself in the past, on an awful lot of people. Turns out one or two weren’t quite as gullible as I thought. Most still are.
The problem is, even if I could arrange a demonstration to a bunch of skeptical onlookers, I would only convince those present. If you weren’t present, you wouldn’t believe them, no matter who they were. If I did this, and Randi was present, and convinced, what do you think the skeptics would say?
‘Romulus Crowe, the man who finally Proved IT’, or
‘Romulus Crowe, the man who managed to fool James Randi’.
Be honest. Which would you say?
I could go that route. I could set myself up as some kind of evangelist skeptic-convincer and drag you all out on investigations, one by one, until you see something. That could take a long, long time, and what would be the point? You might be convinced, but who’s going to believe you? Showing people one at a time is a daft way to proceed.
Slow and steady accumulation of data. Filtering out the definite crap, of which there is an extraordinary amount. Both eyes always open in case of hoax, because some are very, very good. Every day brings a new possibility of mistaken identity or misunderstanding. The list of ‘wrong’ grows, and eventually I’ll have it whittled down to the remaining ‘very likely’ instances.
That’s when the real work will start.