Thursday, 3 September 2015

Invisible ghosts

VigilA Goldfinch flew over. I didn't look up. I knew what species the bird was without seeing it. I recognized its call. But it got me thinking about those cases of haunting where no actual apparition is ever seen. Why do witnesses assume a ghost is even involved?

With no apparition, a haunting consists of some odd occurrences happening at a particular location. That a ghost is responsible is an assumption. Of course, you could argue that similar events occur in hauntings with or without apparitions. But even when ghosts are seen they are not observed producing knocking noises, moving objects about or any of the other stuff associated with hauntings. Ghosts are also often seen without any accompanying haunting phenomena. It might, therefore, be better to think of ghosts as a rare symptom of certain hauntings.

Despite this, there is a general assumption that hauntings are caused by ghosts, seen or unseen. This brings me back to the Goldfinch. Suppose I was in an empty building and I heard a door close somewhere out of sight. I would assume that there was someone present. But if, on searching, I could find no one, I would either conclude that they had left rapidly or it was a ghost. But there is another possibility, of course. What if the sound was not a door closing at all but just sounded like it? There is even a small possibility that my Goldfinch was something else entirely. A Starling, for instance, can mimic other bird calls.

My point is that I think people may assume invisible ghosts are responsible for haunting phenomena because they sound like someone moving around. But the sounds of someone moving about are so general that they can be produced by many other mechanisms. The 'closing door' I heard, in my example, may have been some automatic machinery operating, for instance, or perhaps something falling down. I have often been caught out by machinery in this way, causing me to think I was not as alone as I'd thought. And that's just indoors. Outside there are many things, like the wind, flowing water or animals, that can sound like someone moving around.

There's a lot more on this topic here. You will gather from these blog posts that I regard the idea of invisible ghosts as an, as yet, unproven assumption. Maybe compelling evidence for their existence is out there somewhere but I've yet to see it.

PS: "A rational guide to booing". It sounds like the title of an amusing lecture that I'd like to attend. It is, instead, a recent snatch of speech from an MWR (see 1 Sep). I think an acronym is needed for this dream eavesdropping. How about MDE - Microsleep Dream Eavesdroppin

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