The Weakly Ghost Bulletin #2

WEAKLY GHOST BULLETIN HEADER

Last week I launched a new feature on the blog called the Weakly Ghost Bulletin and you can read WGB #1 by clicking here.

Here is the Weakly Ghost Bulletin #2! 

Man Captures Sleep Paralysis Ghost on Camera!

The video above shows a ghost hovering over the bed of someone who suffers with sleep paralysis, apparently.

‘Is this a ghost caught on camera or perhaps its the infamous “old hag” that is often described by sufferers of sleep paralysis‘ ask Your News Wire. Well, no. It isn’t. Those who experience sleep paralysis are not being hounded by the spirits of dead people, or by an old hag – it is a sleep disorder. The “apparition” in the video looks questionable at best, dodgy at worse. It looks like a shadow being cast against the wall- potentially from behind the camera -and there is absolutely nothing to support the notion that this is a ghost.

Is this a school’s ghost caught on Camera? 

Grainy footage? Check! Footage filmed by a secondary source making it impossible to investigate? Check! Blurry nothingness being labelled as a ghost? Check!

Apparently people have experienced other weird things at the school and so in the true nature of jumping to baseless conclusions they’ve decided that it must all be linked in some way. Also, despite all of the issues with the footage that I mentioned above,nationally-renowned paranormal experts and co-founders of the Scientific Paranormal Investigative Research Organization John and Lisa Brian were sent in to investigate after multiple reports came in that someone had been tampering with the lights” and referred to it as “a really great piece of footage.”

Oh brother…

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I’m sure I have missed some stories that have been in the media from this week’s bulletin. If you see a rather rubbish ghost story in a newspaper or on a news website feel free to send a message with a link, send me a tweet about it, post about it on the Facebook page or email boo at hayleyisaghost dot co dot uk

The Demonic Humanists and the Insecure Christians

stupid

In December the British Government blocked the legal recognition of humanist marriages because it was seen as a ‘fringe’ issue.  Andrew Copson of the British Humanist Association called this decision an insult, pointing out that ‘under this government, Scientologists have been added to the list of religions that can perform legal marriages, joining Spiritualists, the Aetherius Society (which believes in aliens and that the Earth is a goddess), and dozens of other religions. To describe the legal recognition of humanist marriages as a “fringe” issue insults the many couples – much larger in number than these many small religious groups – whose planned marriages next year will not be able to go ahead if Number 10 blocks this change.’

Today on The Big Questions aired by the BBC (available to view here for the next 29 days), one of the questions for discussion was “Should humanists have equal rights to religions?” and this, apparently, was just way too much for some of the guests to handle.

Taiwo Adewuyi of Discuss Jesus jumped straight in and described Humanist weddings as “entirely demonic.” He said “It all goes back to the origins of humanism, humanism is the cancer of thanksgiving, it is the devils PR, it is a first class ticket to the sea of Wantonness and debauchery.”

He explained that humanism is apparently attempting to knock god off of his throne, just as Lucifer himself attempted, explaining that “the issue with humanism is that it tries to knock God off of the throne. The bible talks about lucifer, whose name is The Devil and his attempt to ascend to the most high, and basically replace god.”

“Humanism” he explained a bit later “is a 1st class ticket to the very hyper-sexualised society that we are now seeing.”

Perhaps he has been to a few Humanist orgies that the majority of us were not invited to? Not sure, but I think that Adewuyi has a very perverse view of the non-religious around him. I wonder what it is about us that he finds so repellent?

I think the answer lies with an insecurity in his belief system that is knocked so badly when someone who doesn’t agree with it asks for equal representation in society. After all, Adewuyi himself suggested that two people who identify as non-religious getting married in a non-religious context could overpower his god. It seems he doesn’t think his god is that mighty after all.

I also think that the question being discussed should actually have been “Should the religious have more rights than non-religious people?”

This might have been too much for Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin to process though because she apparently couldn’t even get her head around why non-religious people would want to get married.

In fact, Hudson-Wilkin who is the Speakers Chaplain in the House of Commons didn’t even seem to understand what humanists were, mistaking us for some anti-religious group rather than just people who are a-okay without religion.

She said “I am puzzled why a group that is anti-religion is then trying to keep the religious practices. Marriage is a sacred act. We see it as a gift from god, so it is not something we think anybody just gets up and, stands in front, and says I’m marrying you. If humanists are anti-religion I don’t understand why you want to keep and do all of the things that religion does.”

Well, that’s a good point Rose, you’ve totally got us there except MARRIAGE PRE-DATES RELIGION ACTUALLY SO BE NICE AND SHARE.

Interestingly Hudson-Wilkin would not provide an answer when asked by other guests if she would attend the Humanist wedding of a friend if invited, or if she would attend a Muslim wedding ceremony if invited. It was extremely uncomfortable to watch her battle with whether or not to commit herself either way. Perhaps she was afraid that her words would be used as rope to hang her with by people on either side of the debate at a later point? Either way, how insecure must you be with your position on a subject that you’re so afraid to admit or deny that you’d attend a ceremony that was conducted away from your personal religious traditions?

Taiwo Adewuyi finished off by explaining that he isn’t exactly happy with the way in which humanists are trying to force their doctrine down other peoples throats (more evidence of secret humanist orgies?), he said “They’re trying to copy the very thing the bible does. I think teaching young people about humanism, that there is no god is a problem. I think the teaching of evolution is a lie. If we are evolving what are we evolving to. If we are subject to matter, time and space then if it is finite then when did it come to be?”

Wow. Yeah… I don’t think we have any reason to even pretend that Adewuyi is a man to be taken seriously, or even a man to be given the position of speaking on behalf of other Christians. Especially considering he shouted “POL POT!” at Andrew Copson for no apparent reason.

However, to be serious for a moment, doesn’t it speak volumes that when humanists- or even non-religious people who don’t identify as humanist -ask that their beliefs are given the same treatment as the beliefs of religious people one of the main reactions is absolute panic, fear and confusion? What a great indicator of how privileged the religious are in Britain. What a great indicator of how much this needs to change.

The Weakly Ghost Bulletin #1

WEAKLY GHOST BULLETIN HEADER

I’ve decided to trial a new feature on my blog called The Weakly Ghost Bulletin. It will be a week by week update on any ridiculous and weak ghost stories that have made it into the mainstream news in the past seven days. As this is the first bulletin of 2015 I am going to include the last ten days.

Watch Terrifying Ghost Pursue Car

This video shows what looks to be a hunched over figure wearing a long white robe with lanky black hair hobbling after a car from which it is being filmed in the dark on a road or dirt between Blackburn and Belmont. This, according to the media, is a terrifying ghost. The occupants of the car do sound genuinely distressed as they reverse away from the figure but this doesn’t mean it is a ghost. I’d suggest this is someone playing a prank on passing traffic, or it is indeed staged by those who are filming. Interestingly, the alleged apparition has the appearance of something you might find in Asian ghost folklore, so goodness knows what it is doing in Lancashire.

The Lancashire Telegraph contacted a local ghost hunter, Simon Entwistle, who reckons this ‘could be a monk who was executed in Turton Tower by Civil War troops.’ Yeah, or it could be, like, not.

Ghost Pushes Antiques Off Shelves In Britain’s Most Haunted Shop

Everyone claims that their shop, pub, hotel or office is Britain’s “Most Haunted” at one stage or another, but the Barnsley Antiques Centre seem to really believe that they are being haunted by a poltergeist. They’ve made the news because of footage from their CCTV system that shows a picture falling off of a shelf. This happened as they were talking to someone in the shop who claims they are a Spirit Medium.

Any good ghost researcher would tell you that this only seems significant because of the timing. When you think of a dead loved one and there’s a noise in your house at the same time it is easy to think that these two occurrences are related when they’re actually just coincidences. Remember: Correlation does not imply causation.

What’s interesting is that previously footage of a glass cabinet exploding for “no reason” at the same shop made the mainstream news las year and they’ve also caught footage of orbs and alleged apparitions in the shop. Watch all of the previous “evidence” that this shop is haunted below:

 

When this is all added together it seems compelling but it isn’t. What we are seeing is secondary footage- the original footage has been recorded using a handheld device -this detracts from the quality of the original footage and makes it very difficult to determine what we are actually seeing. This is a good way to cover up staged or edited footage but my gut is telling me that this isn’t what is happening here. I think that this shop genuinely think they have a ghost but I’m not convinced that any of this evidence is actually substantial. When you convince yourself that you have a ghost it becomes really easy to fall into the trap of attributing any odd thing to the ghost and the “evidence” just starts mounting.

…and that concludes The Weakly Ghost Bulletin #1! Thanks for reading, make sure you sign up for email updates to catch future editions.

Thoughts On Experiences Of Skeptic Podcasting

RI live

About six years ago I was asked by a friend if I’d contribute to a podcast he’d had the idea to start. There was a real lack of British skeptical podcasts at that time – especially those that focussed on weird news stories. We were both paranormal researchers who had come to the dark side (skepticism). I said yes, we recorded an episode and the Righteous Indignation Podcast became a thing and, to our great surprise, it became a thing that people actually liked and even mimicked in their own podcasts. Neither of us had expected that but there we were with a steadily growing number of listeners and interviews with people we’d never imagined we’d speak to lined up into the future.

Then Marsh came along and everything went downhill.

No, I’m joking. The team behind the RI Podcast expanded to include Marsh, and occasionally Dr*T (that mysterious Irish guy), Gavin Schofield, Andrew Johnston, Stephen Rooney and a number of other people who would step in from time to time when we needed an emergency co-host.

The show came to an end in 2012 when it was’t really possible for us to continue producing episodes without them losing quality and as RI had been something that so many people loved we didn’t think it was right to let that happen. By that point we all had lots of commitments that took up our time that we hadn’t when we started – family, careers, worldwide campaigns in which people overdosed on homoeopathy…

I listened to an old episode recently and it shocked me at how much things have changed since the good old days. For a start I sound completely different now that the squeaky voiced girl on that podcast and I think I am now more confident when it comes to tackling pseudo-scientific topics than I was back then – especially when debating people who believe in them. I used to get incredibly nervous before we did interviews, but it was a huge learning experience too.

I know that Trystan no longer identifies with the skeptic movement and it is the same for me, and although Marsh is still involved in the movement, his actions and work are done in a way that many cannot imagine themselves copying because he engages with those that he doesn’t agree with in a way that opens up an interesting dialogue to allow the exploration of weird and extraordinary beliefs and ideas further. It’s completely admirable.

I think that the RI podcast helped us all develop into what we are in one way or another.

When I became a co-host of that podcast I hadn’t found my feet when it came to my non-belief in things I had long held to be true and suddenly I was thrust into a (sort of) limelight that I had no proper knowledge of. The experiences I had as a result of this, the people I met, the things that I have learned from the whole skeptical podcasting experience has led me to the position I hold today, but it hasn’t always been an easy path.

I have a great respect for rational inquiry into extraordinary claims, I have learned a lot about the way in which I personally investigate paranormal claims, and my critical thinking skills have developed hugely because I was sort of thrown into the deep end of the skeptic movement without armbands.

I was still finding my feet with the skeptic movement when people assumed I’d already found them. I was still working out how I felt about certain topics, I was still learning how to spot logical fallacies and, at times, I was completely out of my depth. I think I got there in the end and the whole experience has been worth it.

During my time as a skeptic podcast host I learned to listen as well as talk, and that was a very important lesson. Not everyone in the skeptic movement wants to listen to opinions other than those that mirror their own and I don’t think it is a healthy approach. When Marsh and I established the Be Reasonable podcast in 2013 we did so with the intention of interviewing people who believe weird things. Some of the responses from our listeners were quite disheartening and made me question whether continuing as a podcast host was the thing for me and as a result of a bit of soul searching earlier this year (pun intended) I stopped contributing as a co-host so that I could concentrate on other things.

All in all though co-hosting skeptic podcasts for so many years has been interesting and I’ve taken a lot from it. You can find the Be Reasonable podcast on the Merseyside Skeptics website by clicking here. You can find the Righteous Indignation back catalogue here, and you can find the blog of Trystan Swale here.

My Top Reads of 2014

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UPDATED: To add The Martian by Andy Weir to the book, which I read after writing this (but still during 2014)

This post is inspired by a similar one written by Samanta Stein. I received a Tablet for Christmas 2013 on which I have the Kindle App which saw the amount of books I got through in 2014 rocket. There are so many books that I have read as  result of this kind gift. Below are some that I enjoyed the most.

1. Kindred Octavia E. Butler

Published in 2004, this book tells the story of Dana, a 20th century African-American woman is mysteriously thrust back and forth in time between her world and the world of her ancestors in the 19th century. She seems to be tied to one ancestor in particular: Rufus, the white son of a slave-owning family. The book follows her struggle dealing with the utterly alien world of Rufus’ slaveowning culture and follows the utterly complex emotions of both the main characters and all of those whom Dana comes into contact with.

I could not put this book down and found myself distracted by it in between reading sessions. Other books by Butler are now on my to-read list.

2. The Martian Andy Weir

Mark Watney is the most famous man on Earth, but the problem is that he isn’t on Earth. A team working on Mars is surprised by a dust storm. One of the team (Mark) is lost with a hole in his suit, the others told to evacuate. Leaving him behind, he wakes up later to discover his situation. His team think him dead, NASA think he’s dead. He’s on his own… until he isn’t and there’s a race against time to get off of the planet before his resources run out.

This book is hilarious and touching and geeky and I read it one go. I went without sleep just so that I could finish it and find out what happens to the genuinely likeable main character. This quote in the book struck me:

‘…they did it because every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it’s true. If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.’

Buy this book because you will not regret it.

3. A Calculated Life Anne Charnock

Jayna is a genetically-engineered simulant designed to have amazing analysis and deduction abilities. Simulants are “grown” rather than raised, they arrive fully-adult, with only rudimentary social skills and experiences. Though highly-valued, they are not self-determining beings: they are owned by The Constructor, who leases their skills out for huge fees but Jayna’s generation has been augmented with more sensory capability than previous generations which seems to be causing glitches in some models with reports starting to circulate of simulants who deviate from accepted norms. The result is being sent back to The Constructor for reprogramming — erasing their previous lives. Death.

This is a really interesting story about the sense of self, free will and the consequences of challenging The System. It’s a slow burner but totally worth sticking with.

4. Under The Skin Michel Faber

I wish I could re-read this as a new book again. I have yet to see the film (which a colleague told me is quite different from the book) but it was the press surrounding the film that led me to the book. Straight away I was thrown into rainy Scotland with its rugged mountains where Isserley scouts the Highlands in her car in search of well-proportioned male hitch-hikers for a fate that slowly unfolds as you read on.

This is a strange, dark and disturbing book and I loved it from start to finish. There is some deep contemplativeness that happens with characters who observe the planet around them and long to belong.

5. Station Eleven Emily St John Madel

A lethal flu pandemic wipes out 99% of the population and survivors create settlements, often in airport buildings or old shops, petrol stations, schools and so on, joining together to try to create a new world. Some things remain, there is still music and literature, and the book follows  the Travelling Symphony – a group of artists who travel from settlement to settlement, putting on the plays of and accompanying these with music.

There are other characters too, and we hop back and forth through time to explore their stories both post and pre pandemic. Each story reveals to be a thread that connects into a bigger woven tale. It is an utterly captivating book with a real down-t0-earth feeling throughout where characters are trying to make sense of their place in the world and the meaning of life.

6. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry Rachel Joyce

Surprisingly not a sci-fi or science fiction book (I see an unexpected pattern in the list above, I guess I have a favourite genre.) In February The Bookshop Band – who are incredible, by the way – did a concert where I work and the author, Rachel Joyce appeared with them as they performed songs inspired by her books The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Perfect. Now, Perfect is in my to-read list, but The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry almost moved me to tears on several occasions.

Harold receives a letter from an old colleague informing him that she has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. What starts as a trip to the nearest post-box to send a letter expressing his condolences turns into an epic and difficult journey across the country to visit her before it is too late. This story acted as a reminder that time is too precious to waste on regrets.

By the way, if you’ve not heard of The Bookshop Band before you should check them out. They write original songs inspired by books. Here is a song they wrote that was inspired by The Teleportation Incident. They’ve sold out the Concert Hall I work in twice so far.