The Problem With Britain’s “Most Haunted House”

I’ve had a Fortean Times subscription for a number of years because I largely find the features interesting, but I’ve found myself becoming more and more frustrated at certain features in the last year or so when certain ghost stories are given uncritical promotion, or when the author fails to remain unbiased. In FT327 The Cage in St Osyth, Essex is given a four page spread and is dubbed as “The Most Haunted House In Britain”. The piece, written by John Fraser, provides a nice introduction to the location and it’s fascinating history of imprisoned witches and some of the spooky activity people claim to have witnessed, but he makes a glaring error. Continue reading The Problem With Britain’s “Most Haunted House”

Being The Token Skeptic: My Experience On BBC Radio West Midlands

I got a phone call this morning from BBC Radio West Midlands asking if I would go on their show to discuss the sense of presence research that has recently made the headlines again. I agreed because there were a few interesting points I was hoping to make about the research. Firstly, the researchers are not suggesting that their findings can explain all ghost experiences as the media are falsely claiming, and secondly the research does suggest that we can’t trust our initial impressions of weird experiences we have because we are open to influences that we’re not always aware of.

Instead, the limited time I spent on the phone with the studio was spent defending my skeptical position and having to explain how a recently bereaved man wasn’t hearing messages from his dead wife and how another guest on the air hadn’t seen ghosts when she was a child and how you can’t rely on eye-witness testimony as fact. Something the presenter kept insisting was okay to do.

It’s totally unethical to deal with the recently bereaved and it was unfair of BBC Radio West Midlands to ask me to debunk that persons experiences of messages from his deceased wife. The time I could have spent giving some perspective to the research was instead spent pointing out the huge logical flaws in the testimony of the other guest who couldn’t decide if she was a Christian who doesn’t believe in ghosts or whether she had seen ghosts.

It was a complete waste of my time, but why am I surprised? What was I expecting.

It feels as though the media purposefully misrepresent scientific research to arouse hatred and suspicion from the general public. In this case the media are telling people “these scientists say that your ghost experiences can be explained by what they’ve done in this lab” and the response to this is “they can’t explain to me the profound experiences I have had!” and that’s right, they can’t… but they’re not claiming to have done this.

By misreporting the actual research the media are setting the scientists and scientific researchers like me on the back foot, a position from which we can’t engage people about the actual research and what it means in the context of paranormal experiences without having to talk about the individual claims of each person who has come forward with the story of a weird experience they’ve had.

It makes me feel like I’m a conspiracy theorist when I say this, but it feels as though this is intentional on the part of the media and I think it’s irresponsible. To encourage people to share their testimony is fine because people do have weird experiences, but to do so in the context of promoting a distrust of science and while making it nearly impossible for those with the knowledge of this research and what it means to actually talk about this is completely unfair and it insults the intelligence of both the listeners and those who are sharing their experiences.

This research is real and it’s extremely interesting but the media are misrepresenting it to make for better radio. I wish I had pointed this out on air and I vow that every time I encounter this behaviour going forwards I will call it out. I hope that others will do so too. If you misrepresent scientific research as an easy way to meet audience quotas invite this token skeptic onto your show at your own risk.

I Am A QEDcon Fan, Here’s Why

I feel as though QEDcon and the organisation team behind it does not get enough credit. Sure, they won an award last year for their brilliance, sure there are thousands of adoring tweets and Facebook messages telling them how amazing they and their events are, sure they sell every ticket and pack out the large venue in Manchester, sure over 500 people applaud for them as hard as they can without breaking their fingers, sure people get emotional when they have to leave – as though they’re leaving behind someone that they love dearly, sure people have- in just five years- become fiercely loyal to QEDcon despite not being personally involved or invested, and sure people who leave the 2015 conference have already planned their trip to the 2016 conference, and most of the people who attended the 2015 conference bought their tickets as soon as they went on sale in 2014… but I feel as though QEDcon does not get enough credit. Continue reading I Am A QEDcon Fan, Here’s Why

Weakly Ghost Bulletin #11

imageI am proud to bring you the Weakly Ghost Bulletin #11 on the award winning Hayley Is  a Ghost blog after being awarded the Best Skeptic Blog award at the Ockham’s Awards by The Skeptic Mag at QEDcon this weekend. Thank you to everyone who nominated me, who reads my blog and shares whats i write. Thank you to those who comment on my blog and those who might not agree with what I write but engage anyway.

Thank you also to the judges from The Skeptic for making the decision. I have been blogging since 2007 and on this blog since 2010 and it means a lot that so many people seem to enjoy what I write. Continue reading Weakly Ghost Bulletin #11