That’s Miss Spoilsport To You! In Defence of Rational Inquiry Into Paranormal Claims

Quite often when I am being questioned about my involvement in ghost research people get really hung up on the fact that I stopped believing in ghosts. They sometimes really struggle to get their head around the idea that someone who actively hunted for evidence of ghosts, had weird experiences while doing so, believed in ghosts and psychics and all other sorts of jiggery-pokery could suddenly decide that she was wrong and shed those beliefs completely.

To some people it’s such a huge commitment to say “oops, I was wrong” about something so… so life and death.

But it wasn’t an “oops, I as wrong” moment. It was a long hard look at all of the hours I spent in dark buildings in the cold convincing myself there was more than life and death and admitting it was time wasted, a fruitless venture, a mistake…

So easy it would have been to allow that time (not to mention money) invested to convince me there was something to it, but maintaining an open mind is important to me and the decision I made that so shocks people today is simply the product of an open mind. That’s all. Once I knew I was barking up the wrong tree I couldn’t allow myself to be drawn in by the allure of ignoring protesting information. I believed in ghosts because at that point in my life that made the most sense to me but after two years spent actually looking for ghosts I started to notice that the explanations offered up by people who didn’t agree that ghosts were real made more sense and I couldn’t ignore that because my aim has always been to understand the world around me and my place in it.

Why am I telling you this?

I love a good urban legend, folk tale, ghost or monster story as much as the next person but I think it’s important to acknowledge where fantasy and reality meet and it’s important to share that information. Annoying then that a number of paranormal proponents would have you believe that anyone who offers a rational alternative to their paranormal explanation is a spoil sport and closed minded.

This is a claim that I wholeheartedly reject, and one I have seen too many so-called authorities in paranormal communities using as a scapegoat lately.

In my experience the antidote to a false claim of being open-minded is rational inquiry of the claims the person is making. “I’m open minded about Electronic Voice Phenomena” quickly becomes “I’m open minded about Electronic Voice Phenomena and fuck you for thinking otherwise!” Start poking around the ideas someone says are true with a reason stick and they’ll grab the stick from your hands and beat you over the head with it just as quickly. Usually while claiming to be open minded and not realising that they are, in fact, being closed minded and being intolerant of open-minded discourse.

Ouija boards, mirror scrying and seances are great examples of this issue – widely debunked and yet still very popular, these spirit communication methods often crop up in headlines and RSS feeds because people are superstitious and believe them to be real. Often because people who stand to profit from the belief in these ideas have told them they are real. People genuinely think these methods can bring them harm, that they can be possessed or that they can bring a demon or malevolent entity into their home if they’re not careful. I don’t think that countering this information makes one a spoilsport – I think it’s the right thing to do.

Yet I don’t even think you need to be able to justify the countering of a claim by how much harm the false claim can cause. Bad information should always be countered with good information. False claims with factual claims. A reader of my blog recently got in touch to say that ‘the tool-kit that skepticism has provided me has been less of a ‘candle in the dark’ and more of a ‘blowtorch to the bullshit” after what skeptics wrote and shared helped them to make sense of their own personal experiences. No longer fearful of sleep-related incidents they can now make sense of their hallucinations and this is why it’s important to have these conversations and to share our knowledge. We shouldn’t keep it to ourselves just because people happen to be affronted by it.

Describing yourself as open-minded is fashionable within paranormal research circles – always has been. But actually being open minded… eh, not so fashionable! Accepting a large number of fantastical ideas as plausible doesn’t necessarily mean that you have an open mind but could indicate that you are fantasy prone and if you can’t enjoy your ghost toys because some mean skeptic has a different opinion than you then perhaps you need to pack up your toys and go home until you’re grown up enough to play with the big kids?

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Hayley Stevens

Hayley is a ghost geek and started to blog in 2007. She uses scientific scepticism to investigate weird stuff and writes about it here while also speaking publicly about how to hunt ghosts as a skeptic.

8 thoughts on “That’s Miss Spoilsport To You! In Defence of Rational Inquiry Into Paranormal Claims”

  1. I think that the questions that some skeptics use with creationists applies here. What would it take to change your belief? If they say “nothing” then they are a lost cause.

    1. Good morning Haley I’m just starting to have interest in the paranormal and i ordered some equipment am im not sure what this is all about but I’m going to find out for myself and let the world know.Ill solve the mystery give me some time.

  2. I like to say I’m on the fence when it comes to paranormal…depends on the time of day, what mood I’m in will depend a lot on if I believe in the paranormal 100%. That being said, you can’t be shown oxygen. We know it’s there and we’re told this is what it’s made up of, blah blah blah. 🙂 Maybe that’s a part of how ghosts are, they’re something we haven’t figured out how to capture on tape. I dunno it’s just a tiny theory. There are a lot of pro’s and con’s for both sides I think.
    But it’s your damn blog if you don’t want to believe in gbosts, it’s okay! 🙂 People need to stop with the hating and take a few chill pills also. xx

  3. Reinvent the wheel after 3 months i know what u mean so far I’m saying 90% of the ghost seekers are fake.Tons of these photos are easley faked why someone would want to do that i dont know,but the evp’s are hard to not believe I’m getting response to questions that are fascinating im getting real hard to fake respones some make it hard for me to sleep at nite ,thats why my investigation is taking so long….and im having so much fun,but ill get at the truth,thanks for your colums your great.

    1. impersteve50, sounds very interesting whatever you’re working on. I agree, some EVP’s really make you wonder and stuff like that is what keeps me right in the middle, 50% I believe there are ghosts among us, 50% I’m just unsure. Hopefully one of these days very soon, we’ll get the answer to the paranormal and lay it to rest once and for all. 🙂

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