Monday, 18 February 2013

What you don't know can be weird!

Red AdmiralThe other day I spotted a Red Admiral flying! To answer the obvious questions, it's a common butterfly in the UK. However, it is highly unusual to see butterflies flying in February in this country. The Red Admiral is, however, an exception being occasionally seen in winter. Though most of the population is migratory, it appears that a few individuals spend the winter here.

So WDTHDWP, or 'what does this have to do with the paranormal'? As I write that phrase so often, I thought it merited its own acronym though sadly it is not snappy. Anyway, it is to do with why people report weird experiences.

When I first saw the butterfly I didn't think anything of it. I have often seen butterflies in that particular location. The sun was shining, which usually tempts butterflies onto the wing. And with the weather unusually spring-like for the time of year, the scene looked unremarkable. But something was nagging me, a feeling that there was something wrong. That was when I realised that butterfly + February does not compute, so I went to do some research which was how I found out about Red Admiral's unusual habits.

I wondered if this nagging feeling might be what prompted some witnesses to report things they'd seen. Here are some likely examples I thought of: a figure seen in a place thought to be empty at the time; someone in historical costume walking along a street that no one else seems to notice; a light in the night sky that is not obviously a plane or helicopter. All of these circumstances could prompt a report of an anomaly.

If you get a nagging thought that there is something wrong with a scene, where does it come from? I think it is a matter of knowledge. I did not know that Red Admirals are sometimes seen in winter in the UK, so I felt there was something 'wrong'. In the examples given above it may be a similar lack of information causing that nagging feeling. The light in the sky might be a sky lantern, which the witness is not familiar with. The person in historical costume might, unknown to the witness, be walking away from a street festival so that no other bystanders are surprised by their appearance. The figure in an 'empty' place may have some perfectly legitimate reason for being there unknown by the witness.

That last example happened to me the other day. I was visting a castle that is open to the public. It was closing time and everyone was ushered out. I happened to turn round, outside the exit, and I thought I saw a figure still in the castle. My first thought was that there shouldn't be anyone there. But, of course, it could have been a warden or cleaner or someone else with a perfectly good reason to be there.

It is important in similar cases to these, when questioning witnesses, to ask them why they think there was something odd about their sighting. It might simply be that they are not in possession of all the relevant facts. And it is the investigator's job to obtain those facts.

No comments:

Post a Comment