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.

Writing the death of a character without shtick and cliché

or: how to kill a character in a way that will break your reader’s heart

Sooner or later you will get to the point where you have to write a purpose-filled death for one of your main characters.

This will be a character that you and your readership will already have built a successful relationship with (so the death will come as a shock). You’ll want to make sure you pick the right time and place for such a momentous milestone.

But be aware that this death will not be over in a chapter. And will take a while to build. There will be consequences (the five stages of grief, for example) and there will be an accumulation of events. The story will build-up to the moment and rumble on afterwards.

Note, also, that the path to the death scene might not be a slow decline for your character, but rather an ascendant (perhaps transcendent) climb to what you might call the pyramid of martyrdom, where the sacrifice is the pinnacle of the character’s sum achievement and worth in your story.

Ask yourself these key questions. What does your character:

  • Most fear?
  • Stand for?
  • Stand against?
  • Most love?
  • Excel at?
  • Symbolize?

Also, think about this: how would your character want to be commemorated? Memorialised?

Now set your mind against all these possibilities and think of the worst possible outcomes for your hero by turning things completely around and switching things on their head (this will also help you to show-not-tell).

Examples:

The hero fears spiders? Getting attacked by a multitude of giant spiders is too easy. What about this? The hero has to save a spider, but this triggers an early death (perhaps squished by a mutant fly)

The hero stands for honesty? The hero is tried and executed for telling lies is too easy. What about this? The character has to defend a known liar out of compassion / duty, but this causes a fall (the liar survives) and the hero suffers a wretched death

The hero opposes all forms of bullying? Attacked by a notorious bully and beaten to pulp is too easy. What about this? The hero has to form an alliance with a notorious thug to help humanity / others, but this causes a hero’s fall from grace and subsequent death in ignominy (everyone thinks the hero has been the bully all along)

The hero loves animals? Savaged by a much loved pet is too easy. What about this: the hero must destroy a large number of animals to save a family / loved one / the world. But this leads to the hero’s disgrace and gradual decline toward darkness & extinction. No one will ever know that the hero sacrificed his/her own values ​​for the sake of those he/she loved

The hero excels at swordsmanship, but is brought down by a complete beginner is too easy. What about this? The hero’s excellence at the craft propels him/her to the top of all ranks and makes him/her dominant in the field, but this means the hero does not learn simple (new) lessons / tactics that everyone below his/her position will have discovered / performed / practiced. I mean, everyone uses a crossbow these days, don’t they? How did he/she not know?

The hero is famed for being insightful but is brought down by an unthinking idiot is too easy. What about this? The hero’s perceptual intellect enables him/her to identify dangers that lay way ahead, but the hero becomes so consumed by remote dangers that he/she does not see or recognize a greater and more deadly threat that sits right under their very nose.

So try these character turn-rounds / transformations / volte-faces / capitulations… and approach the death of your character while avoiding melodrama and stale tropes.

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