Well-worn paranormal paths go nowhere: When to give up

Gary Campbell is the keeper of the Official Sightings Register at Loch Ness. In an article today in the Daily Record, he says that even after 20 years of this project, sightings still continue.

Gary Campbell, keeper of the register, said the fascination of Nessie was showing no signs of abating.

He accepted five sightings for 2015 – the most in 13 years.

Hoaxes and those that can be explained are not logged. The mystery, he says, remains unsolved. It appears that any reported sighting that can’t be easily explained is logged as evidence of a bigger “mystery” and the “mystery” is subsequently turned into a singular mystery “creature”. Through mass media magic, an unknown phenomenon (or multiple phenomena) morphed into a plesiosaur-like monster living in the loch. Living plesiosaurs in Loch Ness is an absurd and unscientific conjecture. However, that the Loch has some strange surface phenomena is not in doubt. But, Campbell connects the phenomena reported at the Loch not only with Nessie, a real creature, but with a long historical record (since the story of Saint Columba).

“It’s 1450 years now since the first report of a monster in Loch Ness – it doesn’t look like Nessie’s going anywhere just yet.”

This is bogus reasoning. The Nessie mystery is long-solved. It’s not one neat and clean explanation but there is no monster.  He’s right in that she’s not going anywhere because tourism is too big of a hook for this area. Even though this would have to be an animal that does not breath air, doesn’t die, doesn’t have babies, and can live on sparse food supplies and avoid detection during thorough scans of the water body, it’s still “real” to some who can’t let go of that cherished belief. There’s nothing very harmful about myths and local legends but what about those for which this has become the basis for their life’s work?

This is an interesting question: when do you call a mystery finished and move on? Jason Colavito wrote a post about this called “How Long Do You Give a Fringe Idea to Yield Results?” He told of the realization that UFO researcher John Lear spends a huge portion of his life, “8 to 12 hours every day the last 15 years” looking over evidence for UFOs that has all come to nought. Really, it’s time to give up. I recall Rene Dahinden’s feelings that maybe, after all his time spent not finding Bigfoot, he realized that maybe it wasn’t out there at all. Or, the decades of research into psi that is producing no better evidence (but rather worse results under scrutiny). Several of those who have pursued these topics are so invested – monetarily and emotionally – that they can’t be objective and see the reality.

In some instances, it’s true that we don’t have the technology necessary to solve a mystery. For example, in Jack the Ripper’s time, DNA ID or even camera technology might have solved this classic criminal mystery. Technology plays a huge role in the Nessie tale as well with various remote sensing devices used to scan the water and live video watching the surface. No new animal has been found. Trail cams haven’t found Bigfoot. We have no Bigfoot DNA. So much technology is available today! It allows us to study subatomic particles and to discover thousands of planets outside our solar system. We all have cameras and recorders in our pockets at all times. Yet the evidence for beasts living in a Scottish lake or a stretch of forestland eludes us. The evidence that we are being visited by aliens or beings from other times or dimensions can’t be documented. To this day, ghost hunters are convinced that a technology breakthrough will be the key to proving ghosts are real. Research into these fields give nothing but diminishing returns where, if there was something to them, they would be progressing. It is revealing to NOT have evidence where there should be some. So many have looked for so long.

It’s long past time to say that there is no Bigfoot or Nessie unknown species out there. And there’s no reason to think that any technology will reveal spirits of the dead or alien visitors since what we have now doesn’t even hint at that eventuality.*

We must keep open to new evidence in case something astonishing is found. But odds get longer everyday. At a certain point, each thinking person pursuing these subject areas has to decide if and when they are going to function as if these things DON’T exist as hoped, stop the effort or reformulate it entirely, and get on with life.


*Please don’t take this to mean not to keep inquiring and investigating; it means that it’s probably time to reformulate the question with different premises and assumptions.


23 thoughts on “Well-worn paranormal paths go nowhere: When to give up

  1. Yes, well unfortunately the general public will never bother to educate themselves enough for this to work.

  2. I think anyone who has spent decades fruitlessly searching for non-existent evidence while remaining credulous is beyond rescue – its like a deeply embedded religious belief by that point.

  3. Busterggi’s comment about it becoming a religious belief is, I think, true. When I was involved in a minor way in researching some of this stuff in the 90s it quickly became apparent that this kind of thing becomes an obsession. The experiences I had with the crop circle ‘True Believers’ proved that when they retained a belief in a specific event or events even after we had been in contact with the people who had created that event as a hoax. It becomes a “matter of faith” as my teachers back in Catholic school would have called it. And like religious beliefs, a lot of people can convince themselves that something is real, or at least plausible, despite the obvious facts.

  4. Unfortunately, I can never make heads or tails out of that site. Ironic, since he comments about grammar. I don’t agree. When I asked him his point on a previous post, He’s said he’s just trying to be funny. Harhar, then.

  5. I was referring to that article which responded to yours – not grammar or not some previous dispute you may have had with him.
    I would prefer you to respond to his article about yours which is what I linked to.

  6. By the way. I write these posts VERY quickly in my limited spare time. Perfect grammar is not one of my skills. If someone would like to volunteer to be an editor, I’m all for it.

  7. OK – you consider it a waste of time to reply.
    It wouldn’t have wasted my time because I would have been interested.
    I thought your piece was a fitting contrast to this newly You Tubed talk by Dean Radin.
    But perhaps you’ll consider that a waste of your time too.
    So so – but thanks for responding here.

  8. Just for the record, I never said I was “only” trying to be funny. We have serious philosophical differences that you do not wish to understand or engage. That’s okay. Its a big wide world with room for a lot of opinions. Satire is a legitimate means of making social commentary, and simply not understanding someone’s point rarely merits a completely dismissive attitude, except when one is blindly wedded to a particular ontologu. As to grammar, if you can point out instances of egregious grammatical errors, it would be interesting, rather than attributing your disagreement or lack of understanding to bad writing. Mr. Haith above is simply suggesting that many of your points are debatable and pointing to an alternative viewpoint. Doubt for doubts sake helps nobody.

  9. You’re right, we have differences. I think the effort to establish common ground and discuss this would not lead to much progress. As I point out in this article, I’m not willing to keep pursuing things that probably won’t resolve or go any good. I’ve been around these types of discussion long enough to gain a feel for when I’d spend too much time getting nowhere.

  10. Since folks are concerned with grammar…”ontology” rather than “ontolgu” and “doubt’s” rather than “doubts”.

  11. I hold that it’s a waste of time to write a detailed reply because I disagree with the premises of how EsoterX and, presumably, you, view the world. I have an open mind but, as my friend Debbie reminded me today, it is “corralled by evidence”. I will not don that absurd caricature of the “devout skeptic”, or cynic. I’m reading the literature, I’m engaging with other opinions, I hear what is out there. To engage would be a bit like arguing with a Creationists (but not as extreme, I’d guess); we start with different values. There is little or no movement made in arguing values.

    I find the piece you linked to riddled with logical fallacies (i.e., oh, Einstein should have given up, then). That kind of stuff is putting on a show for readers. Not my style. But, seriously? COME ON!!! Einstein’s general relativity was WELL SUPPORTED. With MATH, even. (Freud, ugh, no.) So we are not talking of the same things – I certainly was not talking consciousness, so it was an inappropriate comparison between the subject areas of cryptozoology and consciousness. Therefore, it would be pointless to attempt to rebut these suggested opinions point by point.

    Thus constitutes my “response” in toto. If EsoteriX wishes to rebut my posts, all fine and good. But I’ll not get into a pointless back and forth about apples and oranges. But feel free to send people to my site to spark some science-based thinking.

  12. The declarations contained in the second to last paragraph appear to be contradicted by the sentence following the asterisk which refers to that paragraph. Why keep investigating things that do not exist or are beyond any hope of technological detection? Perhaps it would help if you could explain in detail what you mean by “[reformulating] the question with different premises and assumptions.”

  13. Thanks for your thoughts Sharon. There comes a point in cryptozoology where any reasonable individual must see that it all goes nowhere. I have long been fond of Rene Dahinden’s remark after 40 years of searching. Remarkably, he seems to be the only hardcore investigator to entertain the notion that perhaps nothing was there all along.

    In the case of Nessie, there is an interest in perpetuating tourism, so I expect there will always be “sightings”. Any claim that Nessie is a plesiosaur can be ruled out for many reasons, most of which never occur to those making the claim. At least with Bigfoot there is a plausible habitat and an abundance of (poor) physical evidence, making it easier to understand the appeal to the imagination. Happily there are countless fascinating animals to study and observe which do in fact exist.

  14. Different perspective may be needed to on solving the mystery why such occurrence are still happening. There are only two possibilities that exist either these creature exist or they don’t. If they don’t exist then the reasonable assumption then these sightings and encounters are man made to which then opens to the question why?

  15. More than two possibilities exist: there is an unknown creature, there are several different kinds of unknown creatures, there is one or many known creatures mistaken for mystery creatures, people are misinterpreting waves, logs, deer, etc. as unknown creatures, people are seeing nothing but thinking they see something, people are seeing nothing but pretending they saw something for attention… I’m sure there are other options I’ve forgotten but the explanation for Nessie is NOT just one thing, it is a collection of explanations.

  16. I could see in the case of Loch Ness, but with Bigfoot especially among seasoned outdoors people that can recognize which can differentriate between a bear on its hind legs or other larger animals. When reporting a large bipedal creature roaming the wood there are only two possiblities either there some unknown creature or there is no creature of any sort and everything to this point being sightings, footprints, encounters has been man made being hoax, lies, drugs or whatever. Also note sightings of bipedal hairy humanoids has been occurring for centuries around the global which is not an isolate incident or something recently. In the past you had this happening and today where people have enough common knowledge to recognize certain animals, structures, shapes and sounds, yet reporting the same creature as sighted in the past. Which brings to the two possibility either there is some physical creature or organism there if not then everything account is false being hoax, lie, mis identification, misdirection, cry for attention all being human generated.

  17. @Gatekeeper, I think you may underestimate the power of our imaginations to have us believe we’ve really “seen” something which nobody else can see. It’s not all attention-seeking liars (although I know those people do exist). A little story: When I was about 14 or 15 years old, I was sitting in the bath at my parents’ home, wasting time when I should have been doing something else, when there was suddenly a loud crash of some kind on the other side of the wall. Somehow, this triggered an illusion in my brain whereby I “saw” the wall flip inwards as if secured to the floor on a giant hinge mechanism. For a second or less, I saw the other side of the wall, and then it flipped back up on the hinge (just like a door, really). Do I believe the wall really opened and closed on a giant hinge? Obviously not, but what this taught me was that my brain is capable of interpreting inputs in such a way that I really “saw” something which wasn’t there for anyone else. Now, we could have a philosophical argument about what reality is (if you perceive something, is it “real” in your universe?); but I think we’d all agree that a thing conjured by your own brain could only be “real” to you alone and is therefore mostly irrelevant to anyone else on the planet. Our brains are powerful, our imaginations are loaded with data, and we are constantly interpreting a flood of information and sensory inputs, and it’s not surprising that from time to time the data gets scrambled. In other words, I have no doubt that some people really did “see” a Bigfoot, a Loch Ness Monster, ghosts and goblins and UFOs. They’re not liars, and they’re understandably miffed to be accused of attention-seeking. They just haven’t accepted the possibility that their eyes/brain could deceive them in such a profound way.

  18. First Stephen will establish my position that cryptids are unknown species yet recognized by science that are of flesh and blood neither supernatural or alien. Second to state that everything we know to exist within this world first begin with someone had observed. As going back to previous statement that we are there to determine if something physical with this world that has been observer by people to either exist or not while the not includes misidentification, imagination, etc. A grant that human perception can alter to what actually exist but one need to question to what is then the source where multiple witnesses reporting encountering in frequently and carry common elements. This leads back to either hairy humanoid roaming around the woods that has outsmarted humans in detection or there is no such a creature. Now if such creature does not exists then what is the cause out there making people think it is. Now if this was happening in a isolate area I could agree with statement, but as these sightings are occurring across the global for centuries then something more is happening then an over active imagination. Now history shows there situations where someone has made a claim of observing or encounter something abnormal that was dismissed as nonsense, a myth, lie, impossible, etc, but over time backed by further witnesses, research and a body was proven to actually be real or occurred which human can repeat the same mistake. Examples are the mountain gorilla, dire wolves, Okapi, giant panda, giant squid, Komodo dragon and the platypus where these creatures were observed and reported by witnesses, labelled as myths note to exist, but later proven real. I believe this to be the similar case with Bigfoot and Loch Ness

  19. Dave, the esoterix post says nothing of value about the current one. It goes through the well-rehearsed, off-the-shelf routine of inventing fictional skeptical positions to attack (“they have made the a priori assumption that our current paradigm encapsulates all that exists or ever will exist”), insinuates that insisting on evidence for claims is a character flaw (“I care not to live in your joyless universe”), implies that scientific processes are a kind of class conspiracy (“containment by an elite”), and finally dismisses empirical methods with appeals to subjective experience (“we have been noting anomalies in our perceptions of the world since we first began speaking to each other”).

    The esoterix post is an incoherent pile of pseudo-intellectual recycling adorned with the shiny pull tabs of jargon.

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