Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Paranormal States

A&E is airing a new series called "Paranormal States". I just finished watching an episode and it really, deeply disturbed me.

Unexplainable doesn't automatically equal something ghostly or demonic. There were, and are still, thousands upon thousands of unexplained experiences had by humans that were (or will be), eventually, explained by scientific and natural laws. It bothers me when, even in the best cases of paranormal investigations (like the stuff done by TAPS/Ghost Hunters), a group calls something paranormal because they can't explain it. My, and my specialists, inability to explain the exact causes of my own illness does not make my illness paranormal. It's just beyond our current ability to define. The group that's featured on this show, "Paranormal States", annoyed me when they started from the example that a father allegedly killed his family back in the 1800's and so, therefore, the house had a high probability to be haunted. HUH? I *do* believe that it's possible that there are phenomena related to energy and places and electromagnetic manipulation of our brains, that can cause strange experiences. But, I can't fathom how the scene of a violent crime might be any more "haunted" than, say, a hospital where thousands of people die every year. Or, a prison. Or, any other location with predominantly bad histories. So, when these people walk in to a house and say, "The history of the house is significant!", it cheeses me off. The only way I would consider it significant is if they theorized that some environmental cause led to the insanity of the father or something. But... aside from that, just having a history isn't a reasonable explanation for a place being "haunted". If we think about it, why wouldn't the entire earth be haunted (since one could easily argue that there's very little space on this earth that hasn't had someone keel over on it). And, why is it that the ghosts people see, in America at least, are always the "ghosts" of people from the 18th century on? Why not have a tribe of native peoples from 6,000 years ago haunting a home? Or, a "cave man" haunting? And, if the theory is that the spirit of living beings hangs around to haunt a place (like a looped video), then why is the energy limited to human energy? I mean, sometimes you hear about "hell hounds", but...why not the spirit of a T-Rex or Mammoth or Blue Whale? Do turkey farms have "residual energy" because there's been a grievous slaughter of turkeys? Talk about your "bad energy".

Now, if these people were content to think about these things as adults and investigate the causes, then "Masel Tov!" But, when they include children in the experience and/or infer that the child is "conclusively seeing dead people." , I start to get a bit ticked. We know that there are a variety of stimuli and/or biochemical and/or physiological reasons that our brains distort reality. Why not just say that little Billy, who's "seeing dead people", may have some sort of odd cluster of neurons or is being affected by high levels of environment elements? Why do they have to assign these unproven, and usually unprovable, psychic or supernatural causes? To me, it seems abusive. Like Dawkins decries the indoctrination of children into religion, I feel that this is abusive. It gets worse when an authority figure (like the guys on this show) hand the kid a plastic bottle of holy water and say, "If you see a dead person, throw this at them and they'll go away." !?!? This is like a religious person telling a child that saying a prayer will save their daddy who's in a caved-in mine. The child is powerless to effect the outcome or the event, but the douche' bags with EMF meters and IF cameras are acting like this kid has power over something even they can't understand. What is the child to think when the "ghost" doesn't go away? And, how invested should children really be in these things? I would think that, at some point, the pressure to produce a "paranormal experience" would get pretty high. After all, kids will seek attention... and if you can convince Mommy that you're seeing dead people, and get a houseful of television crews, and the attention - why not keep manifesting these stories? We know that all people, but children in particular, can misinterpret or invent experiences. We know that kids have great imaginations. But, at some point, you have to ask if the positive reinforcement is healthy for the child. And, how is it helping a child who really *is* experiencing *something* because of a natural cause to give it some completely made-up explanation that they'll likely never get scientific verification of?

One of my kids is extremely sensitive to sounds and smells and matrixing (finding patterns and "pictures" in random things - like snow on a television or clouds). It scares her. Or, at least, it did. We didn't call in the Ghostbusters or have a psychic come in to manipulate her fears and play upon her "gifts". Instead, we always acknowledge what she's heard/seen/experienced and done everything in our power to explain it rationally. We've even slept in her room to help her realize that what she was imagining or pulling from the environment was nothing sinister or beyond explanation. The "face" she saw in her room ended up being a filtered reflection from a neighbor's patio light bouncing off a glass picture frame in the hallway. It threw a shadow that looked like a face...and, in that groggy place between sleep and awake, even I was spooked by it (until we figured it out). I just wonder how good it is that there seem to be more and more of these shows and people seem more and more willing to subject their children to this stuff?

11 comments:

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

A little bit of a scare gets the blood/adrenaline pumping. In the relatively safe world in which we live I can't help but think they are tapping into evolutionary biproducts, that largely go untapped.

Yeah we're all adrenaline junkies and these shows are a cheap safe fix. Please pass the potato chips ;)

Poodles said...

I suffer from night terrors. If you don't understand what causes them and what they are, it can be scary to "wake up" in the middle of the night and "see" someone standing by your bed.

I have studied them and I now know that they are just nightmares that occur while I am not in REM sleep and my eyes are open. So the person I see standing by my bed in my dream, I perceive as truly being there. Now that I know, I can control them and shouldn't knowing be the endgame for these "researchers".

FSMismyhero said...

“And, why is it that the ghosts people see, in America at least, are always the "ghosts" of people from the 18th century on? Why not have a tribe of native peoples from 6,000 years ago haunting a home? Or, a "cave man" haunting?”



Thank you!!! I’ve been asking this question for years!



“when they include children in the experience and/or infer that the child is "conclusively seeing dead people." , I start to get a bit ticked. We know that there are a variety of stimuli and/or biochemical and/or physiological reasons that our brains distort reality. Why not just say that little Billy, who's "seeing dead people", may have some sort of odd cluster of neurons or is being affected by high levels of environment elements? Why do they have to assign these unproven, and usually unprovable, psychic or supernatural causes? To me, it seems abusive.”


I agree, it is abusive. As a child, I once saw a ‘dead person’ in the mirror in my bedroom. When I ran to get my dad, we went back, and discovered that the ‘man’ was actually the moonlight hitting a coat, hat, and stuffed animal just right. I think that many of these ‘psychic’ or ‘sensitive’ children have experienced something similar to what I did, but just didn’t have a rational adult to help them look for the cause. Sad.

Steve said...

It's all about ratings and money. Paranormally-based "reality" shows appeal to the masses, so that's what TV networks go with.

SWE said...

Seems like lots of otherwise sane people enjoy paranormal speculation.

I agree with sean that it must appeal to something in us, or nobody would make these shows, per Steve's comment.

I kind of liked Sea of Souls that was on BBC America for awhile.

Could you talk more about the various sensitivities to sound etc. you mentioned? We have been looking for ways to make some similar sensitivities easier on our little one.

Vamp said...

I see dead people. Ok, no, I really don't.

When my oldest was little, she use to exclaim "The eyes, the eyes", at night in her room. It really spooked me, until I figured out it was just the street lights coming in the hole slats from the mini blinds on her wall.

It was those apts. in the SW we use to live in PM, remember those days?

You gotta figure people have to believe this shit if they believe in God the ultimate thsupernatural. (lisp) I've actually been dwelling on this very fact lately.

SpaceCase said...

Your comment about turkey farms reminded me of an old camp song: Ghost Chickens in the Sky (sung to the tune of Ghost Riders in same). Perfect for spooky nights when silliness is in order.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Could you talk more about the various sensitivities to sound etc. you mentioned? We have been looking for ways to make some similar sensitivities easier on our little one.

I'd prefer to discuss it in e-mail, if you don't mind. :) You can e-mail me through my profile.

Red Ryder said...

UGH. All these shows about "ghosts" and "hauntings" just bug me! It would appear as though these people are just playing on insecurities and neuroses. Especially those of children. Not to mention, the thought of meany ghosts scares the crap out of me, and I hid under the covers every time I watch one of these shows, lol. But STILL! It's wrong.

Ian Adams said...

You know what the worst thing about it is, though? That to advertise the show, they're using devices that transmit sounds right into your head:

http://adage.com/article?article_id=122491

Not only intrusive, but intrusive AND offensively promoting pseudoscience!

Atheist in a mini van. said...

That's some freeze-dried bullshit right there.

So, who's to say that they don't get their hands on a bit of that technology for the show itself? You know, place some sort of transmitting device outside the home or place and then beem in a sound to be picked up by a recorder inside.