Following on from its recent Front Page news items about the plague of black-eyed children ghosts into the UK The Daily Star have team together with the UK’s top Paranormal Experts to bring you an advisory of other similar warnings.
A list of things that are best to avoid are included below. Do not let these enter your homes for fear of some terror that nobody can actually define.
The Birmingham Mail broke the news and the Daily Star followed up with a front page story: The Black-Eyed child ghost has returned to Cannock’s Chase, taking up residence once again with the Hell Hounds, a Werewolf, a Pig-man (human-pig hybrid), Bigfoot, Alien Big Cats, Aliens, and the plethora of phantoms and ghosts said to roam the area.
…excessive, don’t you think?
Lee Brickley is the investigator at the centre of this story because of a report he received from a member of the public who sighted what has been described as a black-eyed child. The woman wrote to Brickley
‘… I turned round and saw a girl stood behind me, no more than 10 years old, with her hands over her eyes, like she was waiting for a birthday cake. I asked if she was okay and if she had been the one screaming, she then put her arms down by her side and opened her eyes, which is when I saw they were completely black, no iris, no white, nothing. I jumped back and grabbed my daughter, when I looked again, the child was gone.’
The report of the sighting was received by Brickley prior to July 17th 2013. Why the current coverage of it is appearing over a year later I don’t know. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with Halloween being around the corner and having a book about the weird side of Cannock’s Chase to sell. I’m sure that’s purely a coincidence.
The image at the top of the report on Brickley’s website reads ‘I Want Your Soul’ accompanied by an eerie picture of a little girl with black eyes and there is no critical evaluation of what he has been told. For me, this is an indication of just how seriously we should take Brickley as an investigator. In the ten-or-so years that I’ve been researching paranormal sightings I have come into contact with many people who somehow blur the line between fiction and reality and allow what they see in horror storeis to come off of the page and influence what conclusions they find in real life. It’s hearing cats fighting and claiming “it’s Pipes the poltergeist” when it’s just cats, it’s receiving word of a sighting of this nature and claiming “they’re heeeee-re” when they’re not…
The acceptance of one eye-witness testimony as evidence of something paranormal is another indicator of just how seriously we should take Brickley as an investigator. Eye-witness testimony counts for nothing when it comes to alleged paranormal activity. As a paranormal researcher myself I turn down case after case because there isn’t enough to go on – just word of mouth.
In the case of the Black-eyed child ghost there is the testimony from just one person and who knows what may have happened there. The most obvious explanation for what they reported is that they’re making it up, but it would be unfair of me to say that was definitely what happened here. If this case had been reported to me I would have chalked it up as interesting and would have left it at that. We could speculate until the cows come home, but there’s little point because there’s hardly anything to go on…
…that didn’t stop Brickley though, and I’m not surprised. I reviewed his book when it first came out after he sent me a request asking that I do so and I found it a bitterly disappointing read. In the review that I wrote I noted that ‘as soon as I began to read the book any excitement I’d held before turned into slight disappointment because throughout, the quality of the book is often let down by Brickley’s biased narrative and irrational leaps of logic.’
The leaps of logic in the book are infuriating and so I wasn’t surprised to discover Brickley once again waving around an eye-witness report as evidence that Cannock’s Chase is paranormally interesting. I am disappointed though, especially considering the fact that The Daily Star have tried to link up this eye-witness account with the murders of three children in the area that took place in the 1960’s.
Their report states
‘In the late 1960’s, the remains of three young girls were found buried in woodland at Cannock Chase. Motor engineer Raymond Leslie Morris was found guilty of murdering Christina Ann Darby, seven, in 1969 and jailed for life. There was not enough evidence to convict him of the murder of Margaret Reynolds, six, and Diana Joy Tift, five.’
I like a good ghost story as much as the next person, but casually linking a sighting of this nature with the murders of children is crossing a line. It needlessly exploits a tragedy for the sake of making a story spookier and it creates the narrative that the souls of these children are not at rest which can be very distressing for surviving relates.
If anyone who knew the children that were killed should somehow discover this blog post I want to assure you that there is no good evidence that the supposed child ghost reported to Lee Brickley in the Cannock’s Chase area is anything to do with the girls. It is very unlikely that their spirits are wandering the area screaming, and I am sorry that people have suggested so. If you want to discuss this you can contact me and I am more than happy to talk.
There is little doubt that this news coverage will shift some books and attract legend-trippers to the Cannock’s Chase area, and good for them I say. Yet, there’s a tackiness about the stories that come out of the area that reek of a desperation to stay interesting. “Experts Baffled” cried the Daily Star, but I’m not quite sure they understand who qualifies as an expert in this subject. Perhaps if they’d actually read Brickley’s book they’d have reconsidered going to print?
Another QEDcon approaches and tickets have gone on sale so I guess it’s that time again. Let’s rally together and buy conference tickets for those who can’t afford them! We’ve done it for *counts on fingers* lots of times now. Yeah…lots of times! (I have genuinely forgotten how many times I’ve done this. I think it is three?)
I know it seems cheeky to ask for donations just as tickets go on sale, but don’t feel pressured to give if you cannot afford to.
“WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, HAYLEY?”
Since 2011 I have begged people to give me their money so that I can get people on a low income to the fantabulous QEDcon which is held annually in Manchester.
Why not? The folks who create and organise QEDcon work hard to keep their ticket prices below £100 which is incredible. That’s for the two days of interesting talks AND the comedy and entertainment on the Saturday evening. Yet, even though they keep the price as low as possible some people cannot afford the ticket AND accommodation AND food… so I think it’s a really nice way to help people attend.
In a nutshell? I don’t think your income should stop you from accessing educational talks, socialising with people who are a lot like you, and meeting your heroes. In fact, the first time I did a ‘Get People To QEDcon’ fundraiser it was so that my friend Bob could meet his hero who was flying from the USA to speak in Manchester. Not being able to afford a ticket should not be a barrier to stop that from happening.
DOES THIS ACTUALLY WORK?
Hell yes it works. Through the generosity of other people I ended up buying fifteen people tickets to QEDcon 2014 and just shy of that the year before.
OKAY, SO HOW CAN I HELP?
Donate some cash! Every bit will help. Click the button below to go to my Paypal account and make a donation. I will close donations on October 20th and then open applications for the tickets to those who want to go to QEDcon but cannot afford it.
It is explained to me time and time again that I don’t think something is true simply because I haven’t tried it or because I lack experience in that certain subject. If I just tried these things, people explain, then I’d have a completely different opinion about it. Whether the it in question is Electronic Voice Phenomena, Psychic abilities, the latest ghost hunting gadget or any such thing that I have written sceptically about at some point, people are quick to point out in the comments ‘Hey, why don’t you just, like, try it!’
The truth is that I’ve been actively involved in ghost research since 2005 and was a keen observer of ghost research long before that. I have done the vigils in the dark, I have sat in seances, tried glass divination, table tipping, dowsing, scrying, automatic writing and more. I have attempted to record Electronic Voice Phenomena, tried my hand at Instrumental Trans-Communication, set up Trigger Object experiments, called out, attempted ghost photography and all manner of other methods of capturing evidence of ghosts… and at one time in my life I believed that all of those things could be true.
Then I stopped believing. I realised that those methods did not make sense and that the conclusions reached using those methods were flawed and, more often than not, giant leaps of logic.
Despite all of the experiences I’ve outlined above- the very experiences that people in the comment section of my blog insist will change my mind -I still do not believe that those things provide evidence of ghosts or the survival of the soul. I do not believe that they are good research methods because the evidence does not support that claim.
Here’s the real kicker though… even if I hadn’t tried all of those things it would still be okay for me to not accept that those methods prove ghosts are real because the evidence that supports such claims relies on flawed reasoning, leaps of logic and misrepresentation of actual science and research. You don’t have to try ghost hunting first hand to examine the claims and find them wanting, and to suggest that your personal experience is somehow more reliable than the reasoned processing of such claims against known facts is kind of arrogant.
Having research experience is all well and good but it doesn’t make you an expert and it doesn’t put you and your claims above being questioned or doubted and, to be completely honest, if your expertise is pseudo-scientific ghost hunting techniques then I don’t really think you have the grounds to demand that people try out your methodology before dismissing it. Awkward…
As someone who tries to maintain a reasoned approach to paranormal research I often get asked by people how they should deal with children who are afraid of ghosts and monsters. Last Halloween I did a free talk in my local library for children called “How To Be A Ghost Buster” and I taught them how to spot fake ghost photos and more. The Question & Answer section was dominated by questions like ‘Why does my bedroom window rattle?”, “I hear footsteps outside my door when everyone is asleep, what is it?”, “Mummy says ghosts aren’t real but my bedroom goes very cold and I feel scared” and more. There was real fear in these questions and I genuinely struggled to reassure those children, realising that there is not one good answer on how to deal with this.
I used to be like those children. I used to hear footsteps outside of my bedroom door and I didn’t feel safe sleeping in my own bed because I was convinced there were ghosts in the house. One night a fox made a howling noise in our garden and I ran downstairs screaming that a wolf was coming through the window. Everything was out to get me, including Mothman, which is why I didn’t look out of windows after sunset for fear of seeing red eyes looking back at me.
All of this stopped when the Fairy Queen wrote a letter:
‘Dear ghosts, monsters & bad guys,
I command you all to leave Hayley alone in her bedroom, when she sleeps, and during the whole night. If you come into this room there will be consequences.
The Fairy Queen’
My mum was desperate at that point but it did work. I can remember pinning the letter to the edge of a shelf in my bedroom filled with the sense that everything was okay now. Just as the Fairy Queen supplied my mum with Magic Cream to heal our cuts and grazes (which I later discovered was actually antiseptic cream) she had now provided us with protection from all of the things I feared.
Part of me feels as though we shouldn’t lie to children about these things for fear of reinforcing the idea that monsters and ghosts are real. When I see people sharing photos of “Monster Spray” I worry that such techniques reinforce the idea that there are monsters to deter, but then I figure that although I did grow up believing in ghosts it wasn’t because the Fairy Queen letter convinced me they were real, I had already made that decision before the creation of the letter. The letter simply stopped me from being afraid of the dark and what I thought lurked in it, and I think that small lie is justified.
It is okay to be scared, and as young children we often find it difficult to differentiate between reality and fiction and the fictional can be frightening! Sometimes the best approach to a child’s fear in ghosts and monsters can be to reduce the fear to something to be laughed at. For example, in Kazuno Kahara’s childrens book ‘The Haunted House’, the main character is a little girl who, upon arriving at her new house, discovered that it is haunted! However, she is actually a witch and deals with this by putting the ghosts in the washing machine and turning them into curtains and bedding. It is such a cute book and it turns scary ghosts into loveable characters.
So too does the book ‘The Ghost Hunter’ by Ivan Jones in which the ghosts are good guys who are hunted down and stored in jars by a human, turning something scary into nice characters to be empathised with. This was turned into a TV series by the BBC when I was younger and I was a huge fan. Joe Nickell’s ‘The Magic Detectives’ provides a different approach and engages children in thinking critically about mysteries and helps children to learn the skills to think critically about other things they encounter too.
To summarise, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to helping children who are frightened of ghosts and monsters. Sometimes you’ll be able to engage children on how to rationally solve what is really happening (could it be the boiler? Maybe it’s old floorboards!), other times you might have to be willing to tell a little white lie to get children to sleep soundly in their own beds, and who knows, maybe you too will have to forge a letter from The Fairy Queen…