A few weeks ago I initiated research on a book on ghosts. As part of my research yesterday I met with the lead investigator and case manager of the Edmonton Paranormal Society. The hope is that I can participate as an observer on an investigation. It certainly was an interesting conversation. When you hear stories of events that lie well outside the typical parameters of mundane experience, the critical listener has to ask questions of credibility: is this person credulous or critical? A huckster or trustworthy? I have no doubt that neither of these two people is a huckster. They invest hours on investigations helping people in the community while receiving no remuneration. But credulous? I suspect that in some cases they draw paranormal conclusions prematurely. But many of the phenomena they have experienced (and documented) do suggest paranormal activity to those not dogmatically closed to such explanations. I have had my own candidate paranormal experiences over the years, the most sensationalistic being the “Awake in Japan” incident I blogged about a few months back.
The interesting thing is that, as the EPS investigators noted, people are generally very reluctant to admit that certain anomalous phenomena are best explained through paranormal activity. There are still all sorts of stigmas with doing so (particularly within some doxastic communities) and admitting there is something more going on than drafts due to an open window has a way of making it more real. (It is like the difficulty of the alcoholic coming to terms with his own addiction: admitting it seems to make it more real.)
While we’re on the topic of anomalous experiences, here’s a mild one. Just this past week I was in the bedroom drifting off to sleep while my wife was working on the computer. Suddenly I woke up and began babbling to her intently. I half remember this exchange. I remember trying earnestly to communicate something while she was trying to understand what I was saying. The conversation continued for a minute or two with me utterly unable to share whatever I wanted to say. I can only remember one other time in my life doing that. Weird.
Anyway, I then gave up trying to communicate and lay half awake in bed. A few minutes later, while I was beginning to get drowsy again and my wife was continuing work on the computer, the dead nighttime silence of the house was interrupted by a loud “thunk” from the bathroom. It was loud enough to startle me awake and it was very loud to my wife who was working a couple feet away. It sounded exactly like the glass we keep on the countertop in the bathroom had been raised perhaps an inch and then dropped back onto the countertop. I immediately got up and went in the bathroom to try to discern the source of the noise. Nothing had fallen. There were no open windows. The only possible source of the sound seemed to be the glass. But what do you do in such situations? What can you do? Shrug and go back to sleep.
I have had a number of events like this over the years. One time when I was living in England I walked into a room and the light switch turned itself on right in front of me. When I was in university my stereo turned itself on a couple times in the middle of the night. (It had a heavy switch that had to be moved to turn it on.) What does one do with such experiences? Are they the results of non-natural causes? How often might people experience things that are indeed paranormal but which get screened out for lack of an explanatory framework in which to place them?
We shall see what my research reveals…