Selina Scott’s Haunted Kitchen: What The Skeptic Thinks

Selina Scott interviewed me for the One to One show on BBC Radio 4 about ghosts and ever since it was broadcast earlier this week many people have asked me what I think scared the dogs in her kitchen and I’ve decided to tell you what I think. For those who’ve no idea what I’m talking about, Selina Scott believes that her house may be haunted (in particular her kitchen) and interviewed three people on the subject of ghosts for Radio 4.

The first interview was with Canon Paul Green who conducts house blessings for those who believe their homes are haunted, the second was with Yasmin Ishaq who spoke about the Islamic belief in the Jinn and then came skeptical me to speak about how one rationally investigates weird stuff and how ghosts don’t exist.

If I was presented with Selina’s case as an investigator I would look at what had been reported and try to form as rational an explanation as I could by ruling out causes for the activity until I could no longer do so. I would visit the kitchen in which her dogs freaked out and the bedroom in which guests report hearing whispering and see if an obvious answer jumped out at me and, if it didn’t, I would then start investigating what could have caused those things to happen. The main problem though is that I have not been present when the activity happens and so I only have the word of Selina and her guests to go on, and word of mouth testimony is quite unreliable.

Not only that but the two odd occurrences may be completely unrelated. Correlation does not imply causation – just because two things happen one after the other does not mean they are linked or that one caused the other.

My initial impressions from the case are as follows:

Perhaps there was a mouse or rat in the kitchen with the dogs?
Perhaps the dogs fought with one another because they were in unfamiliar surroundings and on edge?
Perhaps the wind scared the dogs who were already in new surroundings without their owner?
Perhaps there is some sort of infrasound in the kitchen that the dogs can hear (they hear more than humans) that upset them?

Perhaps the whispering heard by the guests is outside noises they’re not familiar with (what with being guests)?
Perhaps they are imagining it after being told the house is haunted?
Perhaps it is wildlife around the house?
Perhaps it is water pipes or heating pipes?
Maybe it is a sleep related disorder?

You can already see how easy it is to speculate about occurrences of this nature and although I may not have found the answer in my thoughts above it is surely clear to see that there are many alternative and mundane causes for what has been witnessed to consider before we even start to think of the paranormal… and yet that’s the conclusion that Scott went with which does strike me as quite an irrational leap of logic to make. One that many people make when they too witness weird things.

It was interesting to hear that the trio of interviews by Scott on the subject of ghosts was featured on BBC Radio 4 Feedback (about 4 minutes in) with listeners phoning in to share their concerns that such irrational conjecture was allowed to go unchallenged by a clearly biased presenter. Fair criticism, but I think it’s important to also remember though that the One to One show isn’t a show that exists for scientific reporting but, in fact, is more of a documentary-type show in which the presenter explores a subject that they feel involved in. I can only hope that I was able to provide the voice of reason that seemed to be lacking in the first two shows.

About Hayley Stevens 442 Articles
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.

5 Comments on Selina Scott’s Haunted Kitchen: What The Skeptic Thinks

  1. Hi Hayley I’ve only listened to the first part of your interview with Selina and what pricked my interest was the lightbulbs comments. I didn’t realise that for many people the phenomenon of bulbs blowing more frequently that be might expected could be seen as a sign of ghostly activity.

    I lived in a house when bulbs (including the modern halogen ones) would blow at least once a fortnight. It never occurred to me that there was a possible ‘supernatural’ explanation. I put it down to dodgy electrics and thought nothing more about it once an electrician installed a new fuse box (as part of a kitchen refit) and tested everything.

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems all to easy to focus on the exciting supernatural explanation than to accept a more mundane natural one.

    • People will see many mundane things as paranormal indicators and no, it isn’t just you, as I pointed out the exact same thing in the blog post. It isn’t that it’s “easy” though, it’s that people with certain biases are more prone to see meaning where there is none.

      I think it’s easy to assume that people who believe in the paranormal are stupid or just intellectually lazy and think these things because it’s “easy” or because “they need to read a book” or “get a clue” – it may be true of a number of people who don’t have the reasoning skills, but it’s not always the case. There is a big difference between being uneducated about a subject and having biases that lead you make irrational conclusions because of confirmation bias and I think the second is mistaken for the first too often.

    • You are right, it is dodgy electrics, but caused by ghosts…

      I don’t understand why people waste time investigating anyway, the fact is, that these are events we have not witnessed, so all we have is witness anecdotes, and we all know how inaccurate human memory and perception is. All this oxygen wasted saying it is or isn’t a ghost, when none of the advocates will never know, and saying it was not a ghost is as much as speculation as saying it was, even with the appeal to authority we sceptics always use ‘There is no evidence for ghosts, ergo, it wasn’t a ghost’.

      Scepticism is a wasted cause, one billion each of Christians and Catholics, and on just one believer, we could spend our whole life trying to convince them they are wrong (if they are), and what would be the end result? A believer who dies still believing, and with the ‘knowledge’ they will be meeting their maker -a happy ‘soul’ and a frustrated sceptic who has wasted their own life on a fools errand.

      As long as they harm none, let people believe what they want to believe, that way we all get to live or lives…our way…

    • At no point have I said people can’t believe what they wish, and had you listened to the radio piece you’d know that, and why I “waste time” investigating these experiences.

  2. “I don’t understand why people waste time investigating anyway, the fact is, that these are events we have not witnessed, so all we have is witness anecdotes, and we all know how inaccurate human memory and perception is.”

    People investigate to find truth and expand understanding. Pursuits that I feel are not a waste of time. Some events we do not witness ourselves and we have to rely on witness anecdotes, but some events we do witness ourselves. Also there are many reported anecdotes from various people & places that are very similar to each other. So we try and correlate the information and see if we can find a clue.

    Definitely time consuming, but not a waste of time. I think to experience something inexplicable and to just dismiss it without any regard is just lazy and benighted.

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