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.