5 Ways to Prove a Paranormal Experience Was Plausible

Or: the pragmatic approach to paranormal verification

What may appear to be a puzzling supernatural experience / manifestation to one witness may have an entirely rational & scientific explanation to a better informed researcher. It is imperative that we rule-out any obvious explanation for unexplained phenomena before drawing conclusions.

Most of us know that bumps, creaks and all kinds of strange noises and sensations (the so-called bumps-in-the-night) can be readily attributed to drying building beams, expanding floorboards, bats in the attic, mice behind the plaster, breezes through vents, etc. Anyone who has encountered the hiss of a barn owl when agitated (they like to hang out in old lofts, church-yards and ruins) will attest to this. It’s the most chilling and macabre sound you can possibly imagine (check the video below.) We can place these explanations under one broad heading: “environmental and biological.”

ghost in the mirror

But less is known about the following rational explanations for “paranormal” encounters — and these should also be taken into account when we review and examine someone’s testimony:

No.1

The Frequency of Fear

Below the range of human hearing, infrasound will cause strange sensations in some people. Humans will not naturally hear sound below 20 Hertz, but some people unconsciously respond to these lower frequencies. It has been scientifically proven that feelings of fear or dread can accompany low frequency vibrations

Remedy: Eliminate any sound waves below or around 19 Hertz (fans, heaters, pumps, etc.)

No.2

Unusual Electromagnetic Fields

In many ghost hunting activities electromagnetic field (EMF) meters are played with, but without proper explanation. It ought to be remember that these gauges are typically used to diagnose electrical problems with domsetic wiring etc. According to a reliable neuroscientific study, magnetic stimulation (even weak fields) can produce what some witnesses describe as “an inexplicable presence” in a room. If the Earth’s geomagnetic field needs to be checked, a gauss meter (magnetometer) will be required.

Remedy: rule out all electromagnetic fields, use an EMF meter to check that none are present

No.3

Toxic Hallucination

If it can be convincingly proven that drugs, narcotics, intoxicants, or any other substance had not influenced the witness prior to their encounter, it is still possible that carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and / or pesticides were present. Carbon monoxide and formaldehyde, and also some pesticides, cause symptoms of panic, paranoia and loss of consciousness (also, hallucination)

Remedy: Check the area with a multi-gas meter for flammable gases, CH4 / CO / O2 and H2S, and also use a formaldehyde detector, to establish an absence of toxic gases

haunting

No. 4

Sleep Paralysis

It is well known that sleep paralysis causes subjects to hallucinate (they hear, feel or see things that are not there) — so it must be clearly established that the witness did not fall asleep during their encounter. It is known that previous poor sleep patterns can trigger this condition, and also psychological stress, or abnormal sleep cycles, so we should rule these conditions out before further investigation. The use of commonly obtained antidepressants is also the cause of sleep paralysis.

Remedy: rule out all triggers and ensure the witness uses a device to monitor blood oxygen levels, heart rate, body position, body movements, intensity of snoring (a diagnostic PSG device) in future tests. This will help to detect and track sleep

No. 5.

The Ghost Train Principle

Studies show that participants who “expected” to be thrilled at some kind of event (because they visited a supposedly “haunted” place, for example, or they voluntarily took part in a game where certain results were expected —a séance or a ghost hunt, perhaps) will experience the same sense of excitement and gratification as all the other participants, even though nothing tangible actually “scared” them or even made them nervous.

We see this disposition in common-or-garden fairground attractions: even taking a mediocre and unsatisfying ride on a “Ghost Train” ride will provoke shrieks and squeals in us as well as our friends, even though we are not scared at all! Humans like to be scared, and it’s more more fun to be scared when we’re with other thrill seekers; we enjoy sharing the tingle & excitement of spooky times. This way, people will be exposed to social influence (friends in a group will be delighted with the possibility of something supernatural happening, while the more pragmatic tend to go along with things, maybe because they don’t want to let folks down… in fact they want to please them) — this is when a witness may become susceptible to deception (of self and others). This phenomena is known as: suggestion through positive social influence. After all, what’s worse than a naysayer or spoilsport at a Halloween party? Nobody wants to be dubbed a party pooper or a buzzkiller… right? Even the most ambivalent and sober person will want to “go along” for the ride.

Remedy: rule out positive social influence by limiting the number of witnesses. If there’s a requirement to have more than one witness at an event, each witness must be unknown to any other (all must be strangers) and this fact must be established beforehand, and be beyond any doubt. Witnesses must not come to an event with any pre-conceived notions. For example, they must not think it’s a séance.

Tips, ideas or comments? Tweet me @neilmach

Neil Mach is author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast.

How to authenticate a genuine astral encounter

How to authenticate a genuine astral encounter

or: How to be sure a person genuinely “saw” a ghost

Look into a clear night sky and you will see a million things that are no more. You will see stars that “died” millions of years before we existed, in fact, before this planet was “born.” Life and death, existence and nonexistence is a commonplace spectacle we see for ourselves in the night sky, just above our heads. We are accustomed to seeing the inexplicable!

Some people suggest that “seeing is believing” — but is “seeing” the only way to prove a thing exists? Anyhow, experienced detectives will tell you that there is nothing less trustworthy than an eyewitness. And it’s most likely because we “see” with our brains, not with our eyes! Our brains “put together” the image it wants us to take away from an experience. Later, our rationality attempts to make sense of it.

As primates, our field of vision is remarkably limited — so astral energies only manifest to us within a narrow field of vision. (Many stars, for example, will not be visible to us within our natural range, although they will manifest themselves in other ways.) We must use the same reasoning when we speak of phantasms. (Note: I use the word phantasm because it comes from the root-word phantazein which simply means to “make visible”.)

I prefer not to use the term “ghost” because the word comes with way too much baggage. The word ghost is interrelated with dead people in a way that over-complicates things: for example, wraiths are supposed to be visitations from dead relatives, etc. Let’s not go down that path…

Here I want to concentrate on astral encounters, that is: astral, in the sense that these are things that have a non-physical presence but are perceptible to us (like some of the stars above); and encounter in that it’s a thing that must be defined as an “unexpected experience.”

The 14 interrogative questions listed below are designed to ascertain whether the witness experienced a genuine astral encounter. We are not trying to prove that the witness is a fabulist or a fabricator, since the witness is likely to believe that what he or she “saw” was real but, nonetheless, incredible, and anyway the experience was so strange that it cannot be conveniently put into words. So be nice to your witness and give him or her leeway when they try to explain something that might be just as incomprehensible to them as it is to you.

But the general rule of thumb is: if a witness revealed a close encounter with something that is not astral in nature (in other words, what they witnessed possessed some kind of physical presence, however unlikely) — it can be ruled out. Similarly, if they took part in some experience that had been provoked, foreshadowed, or premeditated in a way that expected a certain outcome … simply put, they went out “looking for something spooky to happen” (so it wasn’t strictly speaking an encounter) — it is most likely fallacious.

Fourteen ways to prove/disprove a genuine astral encounter

  • Was the witness with others, and were they planning to “see” spooky things? Yes, then
    Doubtful
  • Did the witnesses go to what ghost-hunters call an “active location”? A haunted inn, an abandoned school, a cemetery, etc. Yes, then
    Doubtful
  • How great was the intention or desire of the witnesses to “see” the spectral apparition? For example, was it at a time or place that the witness considered sacred? A holy day? A day of remembrance? A time or a place of special importance? Yes, then
    Doubtful
  • Had the witness either a) just woken up or b) felt sleepy/drowsy and ready to sleep? Yes, then
    Doubtful
  • Has the witness ever asserted skills or talents in clairaudience, clairsentience, and clairvoyance? Yes, then
    Doubtful
  • Had the witness been “playing” with ghost-hunting equipment, perhaps a spirit board, an EMF (electromagnetic field meter) electronic voice recorder, a full spectrum camera, etc. Yes, then
    Doubtful
  • Did the witness witness any unusual or unexplained hot or cold spots? Just because we can’t see a power source doesn’t mean it’s not there. Perhaps the sense of thermoreception in your witness detected something abnormal. If yes, then
    Genuine
  • Did the witness find unexplained odours? There could have been an indefinable, sweet and perfumed scent that the witness had never experienced before. As above, just because we can’t see a power source, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. If yes, then
    Genuine
  • Did the witness do anything that might be considered “eccentric” by ordinary folk, before or during the encounter? Phantasms are inquisitive about bizarre or freaky behavior, so they tend to manifest themselves at such times, as if they want to “join in”. If yes, then
    Genuine
  • Are toys or children’s play things involved? Phantasms like to play and the simplest and most modest toys fascinate their curiosity. If yes, then
    Genuine
  • Did the witness hear any inexplicable noise? Have all natural causes of those noises been ruled out? If yes, then
    Genuine
  • Did the witness perceive unexplained shadows? Have all the natural causes of such shadows been ruled out? If yes, then
    Genuine
  • Did the witness notice any apparent change in the air’s density, i.e. smothering, stifling, clogging, airless? If yes, then
    Genuine
  • Were pets, especially dogs or cats, behaving strangely or abnormally before or during the encounter? Other creatures have an extended field of vision. Dogs and cats hear higher pitched noises than us. They also have an advanced olfactory system (sense of smell) and, like many animals, can sense seismic activity. If yes, then
    Genuine

Words: @neilmach 2020 ©

Please let me know how you get on! Tweet me @neilmach

Neil Mach is author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast.