How Does the Skeptic View Paranormal Folk?

I’m going to go ahead and safely assume that the vast majority of readers or even one time visitors to this blog are somehow interested in or involved in paranormal or spiritual topics (unless they landed here on accident while trying to search for something cool like a Snuggie for their dog, although those people tend to be paranormal folk too… I think.) So it is this group that I would like to direct this post to. But I want to make it clear, skeptics and Snuggie people are welcome to read and respectfully comment as well.

There are several things that I have not been shy about discussing since I started Big Séance. One of them is that several years ago I began experiencing what I’ve called a “spiritual shift”. That’s the spiritual side of me. At about this same time I started to be fascinated with the paranormal, specifically ghosts and spirit communication. That’s the paranormal side of me. Sometimes I have a hard time bouncing back and forth between the two, fitting into discussions or conversations online, etc. But the one thing that makes me the awkward guest at both parties is the fact that I’m often the more skeptical (a naughty word in both parties) person there. Obviously that doesn’t mean I am out to prove the paranormal doesn’t exist. I’m convinced life doesn’t end at death. I know that sometimes spirits don’t move on and stay with us, and perhaps visit us on occasion. No one needs to tell me one way or the other. But I do think that there are many in the paranormal field whose behavior and reckless claims about things make us look a little… hmm… childish. Inexperienced. Dumb. There always seems to be that Class A EVP that CLEARLY says “Hey thanks for stopping by but I want you to GET OUT!” even though I hear a cough and 4 investigator footsteps. There’s the orb that has 50 possible natural explanations, yet someone decide’s it’s the ghost of Matilda because look, you can see two eyes a nose and a mouth. I try my best to not criticize the theories and beliefs of others, and feel like often I examine and take a hard look at my own. I don’t go out there trying to pick fights. I just think that as investigators or “ghost hunters” (ugh), we need to be as honest and responsible with what we’re saying and what we’re putting out there.

I know I’m not a scientist or parapsychologist, or an expert in either of these fields, but I have bravely referred to myself as a “researcher” who seriously studies and works with the paranormal… and even though there is a lot I still don’t understand, up to now I’ve felt good about that. Perhaps that’s silly. I follow and learn from smart people, many who truly are deserving of the “expert” or “researcher” title. I realize that people who know me in the real world probably get a kick out of this time-consuming and expensive hobby when they find out how I spend my time when I’m not at the day job. Perhaps some of them snicker when they see my posts, and maybe decide that it’s a shame that I’ve gone off the deep end. But honestly, most of the time I don’t even worry about what people think, because I get so excited about it! I plan my blog posts out in my head at work sometimes and can’t wait to come home to get them started. When an investigation is in the works or when someone asks for help, I put all of my effort into that. I get really excited to jump into my next non-fiction book. I want to learn… I want to discover… and I want to share.

Am I still talking????

Sharon Hill - Geologist, Author, Skeptic

Photo Credit: Sharon Hill – Geologist, Author, Skeptic

Anyway… So I find this skeptic and her blog and I think… “Hey, I like to be skeptical. I want to be balanced and see what I can learn from this.” Sharon Hill, the skeptic, is also a geologist. According to her bio at The Huffington Post, where she is a contributor, she “is a researcher specializing in the interaction between science, the media and the public. She is an advocate for scientific skepticism and the editor of DoubtfulNews.com — a critical thinking weird news blog.” Sharon is also the author of another blog, Doubtful (idoubtit.wordpress.com) which I now bravely follow, that caught my attention and is the reason you’re hearing from me today.

Promise me that even if you stop reading now you’ll watch this 35 minute video that was shared in her latest blog post.

It is your homework. This is her speaking at the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism (NECSS), in which she discusses her examination of paranormal groups and paranormal people, our beliefs, practices, equipment, our black t-shirts, our self published books with no references or citations, and our “sciencey” words because we want to sound professional and serious. It will open your eyes and mind to what we as paranormal folk look and sound like to the skeptic. I’m not going to lie… I was scared to death and worried that she was going to pull up a screenshot of my paranormal group’s outdated website… or even this blog. I found myself agreeing with her at times. She hit paranormal TV pretty hard. But I’ll admit I was hurt (didn’t shed any tears) because in parts of her talk I saw and heard myself in a lot of what she was saying. I’ve watched a few videos and I’ve heard her in an interview, and I really do think she is making an effort to understand us. She seems to be respectful about her opinions, even though she’s clearly relaxed and in front of her own crowd in this video. But still… I’m a bit bothered by it all. She feels that most of us “value science” but we “don’t have a clue how it works.” At one point she talks about how we tend to want to help, and we’re serious, we just don’t know how to do it. We’re simple folk who are just “invested emotionally” in our beliefs. 

Here are several questions that popped in my head during the two times I watched this video.

  • Is she talking about me?
  • Am I just so “invested emotionally” in my beliefs about the paranormal that my eyes are closed to anything else?
  • Am I “fooling the public”?
  • Are her views and opinions a reflection of the average scientist?
  • Am I seen as dumb or ignorant?
  • Should I even care about science? Do we have to have their approval?
  • Does my involvement in the paranormal have any worth at all?
  • Have I helped anyone?

The video from her latest Doubtful blog post.

If you’ve made it through this incredibly bi-polar and emotionally invested post, please share your thoughts. I know you want to! Share away before I wake up tomorrow and decide to delete the whole thing!

 

Related:

The Skeptical Perspective (Jim Harold’s Interview with Sharon Hill on The Paranormal Podcast)

No Scientists (Voices Podcast)

Coming Out of the Paranormal/Spiritual Closet (Big Séance)

 

About Patrick Keller

Patrick Keller is an educator, blogger, and the host of the Big Séance Podcast, which is a place for paranerds to have an open discussion on all things paranormal, but specifically topics like ghosts and hauntings, paranormal research, spirit communication, psychics and mediums, and life after death. He’s the founder of the now inactive Missouri Spirit Seekers and has spent a lot of time experimenting with spirit communication tools and techniques, such as EVP. Patrick also has a passion for spending hours at a time in cemeteries and loves cemetery photography. Visit BigSeance.com! View all posts by Patrick Keller

15 responses to “How Does the Skeptic View Paranormal Folk?

  • Gary Leigh

    Great post. Haven’t watched the video yet, but will do when I have time. Like you, I’m also a skeptic and fully agree that things need to be balanced and not made into something it is not. There’s plenty out there which is genuine without adding made up stuff.

    • Patrick

      I look forward to hearing what you think when you watch it. 🙂

      • Gary Leigh

        I enjoyed it. Only issue I have is that they tend to veer too much in the other direction.

        Some things can’t be quantified with that current tools we have right now. One day they will be, but right now, things to happen, but you can’t repeat it easily enough. (Such as jumping time lines.. how the heck do you prove that to someone, other than someone else sharing your memory, and then being dismissed as wrong.)

        I do feel it is important to be impartial, though.

        One thing that always bothers me about ghost hunters is that they stay in one location for one night.

        If I was doing that, I’d be returning a lot to get a sense and feel for the place, and see if things keep on happening.

        But that’s just me.

  • Randall Keller

    Two things, and believe me, I have about a million things to say but I won’t.
    1. I agree that para folks are not scientists. Episode #59 of my podcast makes that very point. I see us as observers and reporters – not scientists.
    2. Everything else she said I disagree with or find her attitude somewhat insulting. I won’t go on about that, but I will say that this is exactly why science will never be involved with the paranormal. we “don’t want to hear that we’re wrong” because they already know we are.

    I’m learning to bite my tongue these days. It was interesting, and an excellent blog post, but I am amazed at her (and her audience), and I can’t tell you how badly I want to talk to her face to face. Assuming she can drop the superiority thing. Just an opinion… Sorry…

    • Patrick

      As I said on facebook, you have no reason to apologize to me. And please feel free to give us the other 998,000 things that you have to say on this topic. 🙂

  • NetherRealm

    I’ve read some of her other writings, and do not find them “balanced”. I don’t automatically jump to the conclusion that things are paranormal, and do look for rational explanations. It doesn’t make me a scientist, but someone using their common sense.
    I find that her negative attitude will always lead to the conclusion that she’ll never experience anything paranormal. I notice this about other folks who say they’ve been investigating for eight years and turned up nothing.
    Why? Because they are the sourpuss pouting in the corner at the party. The living don’t find it attractive, and visibly avoid them. The dead avoid them through silence, or even leaving the area completely. You don’t see it happening, therefore it isn’t? Sorry, that’s not the case. Negative people fail to pick up on social cues, or blame others for their social shortcomings. I’d love to see freeform interaction between her and someone being confrontational.

    • Patrick

      Well at least you had read some of her other things so it wasn’t such a shock to you. 🙂 I hadn’t really checked out the true skeptic sites to see this stuff. It truly bothered me all night! Thanks for stopping by again!

  • Sally Bosco

    I agree with her somewhat, though I didn’t like her condescending attitude. I think that most of the ghost buster stuff is strictly entertainment. I have my doubts that what we call the paranormal can even be measured by scientific means. We’re dealing with stuff that isn’t physical, so how can it register at all?

    She’s also throwing homeopathy into the same bucket, which I think is a little odd, especially considering that it’s used as mainstream treatment in the U.K. I use it myself with great results.

    I recently read a book by a brain surgeon who had a near death experience. It’s called “Evidence of the Afterlife,” by Jeffrey Long. He was a complete disbeliever until he had the experience for himself, and now he’s a complete believer.

    Life is more subjective, less cut-and-dried than a died-in-the-wool scientist like this woman would like you to believe. It would be cool if, at some point, she had an experience that completely changed her mind.

    On another note, are you planning on doing any posts on out of body travel? I’ve had some experiences, and I’m making a concerted effort through meditation and spiritual exercises to have more.
    Thanks for posting!

    • NetherRealm

      I’ve had several OBEs and controlled NDEs throughout my life. I was looking for another blog topic to write about, and now you’ve given me one. Thanks!
      I have heard of Evidence of the Afterlife, and look forward to reading that in the future. To me, it was natural, but reading about the experience from a former skeptic’s perspective is more interesting.

  • Sally Bosco

    Correction: That book was Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife by Eben Alexander, M.D. I see you did a post on it.

    • Patrick

      Yes. I just recently finished that book and I enjoyed it. I just received another book (one listed on my recent summer book posts) by a former skeptic. It’s the summer of skeptics for me, I guess. 🙂

      Hmm… 4 or 5 years ago when I really first started reading books on spiritual topics, one of the very first books I read was “Astral Projection” by John Magnus. I remember thinking it was far out and interesting. Looking back, it was too much for me then. There were lots of exercises and when I’m reading a book, I like to read and finish. So I don’t often have the patience for the nightly exercises. I tried several of them and don’t remember having any experiences… although I probably had a few crazy dreams. I probably need to go back and read that one again. Another one I need to go back to read is “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle, which I read even earlier when it was super popular. The whole book and the concepts were just a blur. I wasn’t ready for it. That was a tough read for me then. 🙂

      Do you have a book or a site on astral projection or out of body travel to recommend?

      • Sally Bosco

        Two out-of-body travel books I’ve stumbled across that I’m working with are: Navigating the Out-of-Body Experience by Graham Nicholis and Adventures Beyond the Body: How to Experience Out-of-Body Travel by William L. Buhlman. I’ll let you know if I get any results.

  • Thomas Spychalski

    Patrick:

    This is a great article, I like it a lot, thanks for publishing it!!

  • Cornered and Someone Wants to Tell Me Their Paranormal Story | Illuminutti

    […] How Does the Skeptic View Paranormal Folk? (bigseance.com) […]

  • cyruskirkpatrick

    Let’s be real here: anti-paranormalism is a community and a subculture. They very much get pleasure out of singling an ‘out group’ that can be derided. Obviously the paranormal has major un-scientific, credulous aspects. However, when real scientific effort is put into it… An example could be the mediumship experiments by Archie Roy and Tricia Robertson (as just one of many)… Or even the Scole group… Guess what? Results are made. It’s demonstrated that things like telepathy or mediumship or even spirit communication is real. The issue is bias… an inability to comprehend that it’s possible, and then lashing out at it. So who has the most difficulty comprehending these topics? Very logically-minded, left-brained, pro-establishment personalities. Throw in a bit of ego and academic standing, and you have a whole subculture of witch-hunters.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: