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????
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!
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)