Category Archives: Paranormal Culture
Some of you may know I now blog for Huffington Post as well as the usual outlets. Some of you have been kind enough to read and retweet. I appreciate that. My latest piece is out.
I’ve been circulating in the Skeptisphere for a good long while. But I have not forgotten the value of being challenged and seeing alternative views. This draws me to paranormal conferences and events. I go there to be immersed in highly unskeptical ideas. It is immediately clear, to me at least, that I am out of my comfort zone at these events. I do not feel free to talk to anyone lest they determine I am not of their “ilk” and decide I should be shunned. But I am curious, and no one berates me for wanting to listen and observe. What is it about the paranormal culture that draws people here? Why is this population of people happy to spend a weekend engaged in these particularly paranormal activities, listening to speakers and making new friends?
This is a piece I wrote after I returned from a paranormal conference. I would strongly suggest all capital-S skeptics read it and would love to know what you think. I find myself cringing when I hear people (e.g. “skeptics”) laugh at paranormal believers (not beliefs but BELIEVERS) and soundly state “Bigfoot is a myth. Grow up!” How narrowly you see people. Skeptics lack empathy in many cases. You may decry me for giving paranormalists the time of day but I think they have something to say about being human. I’ve not been treated kindly by some in the skeptic-athesist community and I’ve been stabbed in the back and teased by some of the “skeptical believers” (I don’t accept their soft definition of “skeptic”) and of course you’re doomed if you are the Skeptic on a pro-paranormal forum. But, honestly, I’m so used to that. I write policy for a living. If I make everyone happy or NO one happy, I’m doing something right. It’s when I am only liked by one camp that I know I have a serious bias problem.
On the flip side, a new Sounds Sciencey was published this week as well. Read the rest of this entry
I spent the weekend at a paranormal convention in Gettysburg, PA. Now, to most Skeptics, they may not have been able to hold out three days but, actually, it’s a truly enlightening experience. I’ve been to a few paranormal events like this before. I’m certain I was the only card-carrying Skeptic at this one. I’ll be writing and talking about it in various outlets soon but I wanted to give you the quick takeaways.
These conferences are fun and rewarding for the people who attend. They feel like they are among their “kind”. In their spare time, they do paranormal investigations so their regular jobs do not compare. This is no different than a skeptical or any other hobby con. But the big difference between a skeptic event like Skepticamp or a conference is the worldview of the attendees. At a Skeptics convention, the scholarship is high, mistakes are pointed out, serious critiques are brought up in the questioning and it’s all about thinking, not feelings. For this event it was very much the opposite. It was all about suspending scientific thought, very much more spiritual (in the religious sense) than I anticipated. It did not matter what religion you subscribed to (it all sort of mashed together) but your belief will protect and heal you. References and evidence were weak, emotion was strong. Personal stories are welcomed – when were you most scared and most vulnerable? People are very profoundly altered by experiences they had and are struggling to understand them. Without critical thinking tools or framework, it appears explainable in the spiritual sense. Often, what is lacking from Skeptics is empathy towards others’ struggles to understand their frightening experiences. In fact, empathy is downright rare.
Having some typing issues these days.
Carpal tunnel syndrome. And here I am typing. Perhaps I have overworked a bit. I can’t help it.
So, I might be laying off the social media a bit. For that reason, and because I’ve gotten the sense that the general “skeptic” community (North America) is off the rails. Excepting the group of people with whom I regularly communicate, there is a DISTINCT LACK of cooperation among others. In fact, one could say it’s dysfunctional. With notable exceptions, very few people support each others’ work, even if that means a simple retweet or facebook share. Or, they are overly supportive of friends, not giving credit for merit and not appreciative of others efforts. That is a very bad place to be.
But I’d like to mention one positive note which comes from the paranormal community. Check out this post on Mysterious Universe where the Media Guide to Skepticism was mentioned in a positive light. That feels like an accomplishment to me and I’m very grateful for the chance to visit new areas and be introduced to new audiences. Maybe I can undo at least a little of the poor reputation skeptics have in the paranormal community. I appreciate those who give me a chance.
I have a new Sounds Sciencey post out: Burning the Mean and Disparaging Skeptic Straw Man. It turned out to be a much bigger essay than I expected with two overarching discussions so I split it into two and will finish the next one for next month.
As my friends know, I’ve been engaging with those in the “paramiddle” and even on the paranormal side. The focus of this piece is my appearance on Binnall of America audio. It’s been great. Mostly. Lately, there have been some episodes of skeptic bashing from people I thought were reasonable and easy-going. There ARE still those people but a handful seem to revel in generalizing skeptics as the bad guys, the party poopers, and enjoy when things go wrong. I’m not one of those skeptics who berates people personally, even those I don’t like. I argue over their positions or claims or ethics. At least I try.
From the piece: Read the rest of this entry
I was recently a guest on a paranormal-themed podcast. To set the context, I was the FIRST skeptic on this long-running show, Binnall of America. I was so very pleased for the opportunity and, if you listen, you will see that it was respectful and fun discussion. I loved it and thought it was truly worthwhile. But not everyone did.
I’m currently looking into the relationship between “skeptics” and “paranormalists” (is there a better word?) and will be writing about it in depth in the future but I would REALLY love feedback on the episode.
But since 2 hours is a big commitment of time, I would also appreciate comments on this one description that accompanied the show, from The Anomalist.
How can one bridge the gap between paranormal researchers of all stripes with skeptics? By hearing out the other side. Tim Binnall has a long interview with skeptic Sharon Hill. The common ground covered here is going after homeopaths and antivaxxers who ultimately hurt people. We question the invective directed towards ghost hunters and company, comparing them to juggalos for instance, whose greatest crime is trespassing in a place regular people don’t care about. The application and advancement of science would be better spent pursuing curing cancer, developing renewable energy, and cleaning the environment than taunting sexagenarians with MUFON as their homepage. Whether you agree or not, this episode is provocative to say the least.
Just to note, Tim compared them to “juggalos”, not me. He is not a fan. Frankly, I’m not either, generally, but I find it socially fascinating and there are many who really TRY to do a good job and want to help people. But that’s not my concern. My focus is what appears to be a confused idea about applying skepticism just to “curing cancer, developing renewable energy, and cleaning the environment”. I don’t know ANYONE who is “taunting sexagenarians with MUFON as their homepage.” Straw man. And woman.
This opinion was also echoed in a twitter discussion between @whoforted and @dailygrail. So, it’s a typical sentiment – to keep skepticism/science only to the places where it apparently REALLY harms people and let the paranormalists just have fun.
I have my opinions on this but I would greatly appreciate hearing yours.
This was a good one except for the fact that Brian was a blur. But to you, he was in darkness. Very “bigfoot”. It pays to tune in to see what sort of tech problems we have. The camera glitch was caused by us doing some jack in the box shenanigans prior to the “on air” time. We are silly.
I realized how much I adore and respect these people. We don’t fight. So, we might be boring, no drama. But, really, that’s a GOOD thing. We are all adults here. Committed to serious stuff… like showing our pets on camera.
I’m proud (certainly not quite the right word) to call Tim Holmes a friend (and sometimes admirer). He’s a nice guy with an unconventional outlook on the world. In HIS world, Bigfoot is out there and UFOs visit regularly.
I wrote about Tim and the Who Forted gang after I attended the premier of the film The Bigfoot Hunter: Still Searching. (Tim IS the Bigfoot Hunter)
Tim was recruited to try out for Spike TVs new Bigfoot hunter show. I talk about the news of this show, offering a $10 million dollar prize here: Finding Bigfoot just got REALLY serious! (UPDATED: Prize money) | Doubtful News.
Virtual Skeptics #19 revealed that the end of the world comes alongside a bad hair day. I linked to the video of the show at the bottom in case you missed it. But this was an interesting topic this week for me. Here is a write up…
I follow a lot of sources for news stories for Doubtful News including some more paranormally-minded or, should I say, unskeptical sources. I’m always interested to see what kinds of stories are circulating in that community and they are often the first to spot the bizarre ones.
I use information from those stories to promote critical thinking about them. I think it’s harmful to spread inaccuracies so I wish to provide the skeptical, rational view.
Earlier this week, I saw a story on a news blog site about a mass grave found in Mexico that contained skulls that had deliberate cranial deformation. That is an interesting story in itself but the hook was that these skulls looked like your pop cultural stereotypical alien head. The “alternative news” sites Beforeitsnews.com and abovetopsecret.com, hubs for UFO and conspiracy tales, had latched onto that idea calling it a “mass alien grave” (that’s the way BIN said it, and I advise not visiting that site even for a laugh because it’s a piece of shit. However, they have since altered the title to delete the alien reference.) Then it appeared on the Daily Mail and the story went huge. Read the rest of this entry
On November 24, a story appeared in the Austrian Times relating fear of a vampire roaming the remote village of Zarozje,Serbia.
That seemed odd. Vampires aren’t something we assume people actually believe are real.
The story, however, was legendary. According to Serbian folklore, a man, Sava Savanovic, lived in a wooden house near a mill on the Rogačica river. He was a horrible guy, a vampire, who would attack villagers and drink their blood. These stories went on as late as the beginning of the 20th century. For several decades, the watermill was owned by the Jagodić family and was in operation until the late 1950s. After its closure, it became a tourist site. The legend of Savanovic appears to play a part in that draw for tourists.
The Balkans, of which Serbia is a part, has a rich history of superstitions involving vampires. As late as the 18th century, the accusation of a person being a vampire brought on mass hysteria, mob violence and public executions.
Back in the village… the Savonovic house by the old mill stream recently collapsed. That was followed by reported misfortune upon the local towns – five deaths and a suicide occurred. I also found in news reports that people were hearing strange sounds and footsteps in the woods. OOoo, spooky. Also rumored is that Sava can exist not as a bat but as a butterfly.
Here’s a funny story…
When I was little, my mom loved the show In Search Of… It was my first introduction to paranormal topics and also to Leonard Nimoy, believe it or not (which reminds me of another show that first introduced me to Jack Palance).
In Search Of… was so influential to my interest in paranormal topics. It was where I saw the Patterson Gimlin Bigfoot film. It was where I first saw the famous Loch Ness monster photos. It was where I heard about the Bermuda Triangle and Amelia Earhart. It was my primer to all these topics I still think about and write about today.
Well now, it’s out on DVD. 152 episodes on 21 discs. 63 hours!