Thursday, 7 July 2011

Sceptics and Believers

You're lying in bed one night when you hear an unusual thudding sound. You will instantly think one of two things. It's probably your imagination/the heating/the wind. Or there's something weird in the house, perhaps a ghost, trying to get your attention. You see a strange light in the sky and you think either, it's probably just a plane. Or you think that maybe you are seeing a spacecraft of some kind. Although there is quite a fine line between sceptics and believers, on the most part, you either believe in things that go bump in the night, or you don't. But there are also the people in the middle who choose to remain open minded with a "see it to believe it" attitude.

The most common supernatural belief, I have found, is in ghosts. A ghost as a dictionary definition, is the soul of a dead person, a disembodied spirit imagined, usually as a vague, shadowy or evanescent form, as wandering among or haunting living persons. Many people who claim to have seen a ghost in their home say that it has been the spirit of somebody they knew, a relative perhaps, or even a pet. Most of the time, these spirits do not speak but appear and then disappear just as quickly. On some occasions, people claim that these ghosts have "spoken" to them in order to pass on a message. Of course, many ghost sightings take place in more typical environment such as graveyards or old buildings. Most of you will have seen photographs of "ghosts" taken at these places, a lot of the time by people who didn't even notice anything in their shot until the photo was processed. A lot of them look real enough. But are photographs enough to prove they exist? Probably not.

As a child, I was always very perceptive. I also had (and still have) an overactive imagination. It's why I love to write, because I can come up with scenarios easily in my head and expand on them to create a story. It also means that it can sometimes get the better of me. When I was living at my parents (who's house is built on an old coalmine) a lot of "strange" things always happened in my room, like my name being whispered while I was in bed or ornaments simply falling off shelves when they weren't even close to the edge. I would tell myself it was my imagination and it helped. My room was an L shape and my bed was in the far corner. I always slept with my door open, I couldn't sleep unless it it was. From my bed, with an open door, I could see the door to my sister's room. Opposite my sisters room were the banisters of the stairs.

One night, when I was about 13/14, I was in bed, wide awake, when all of a sudden a dead weight fell on me, from my knees downwards. I physically couldn't move them and I started to panic a little. So I froze, to see if it would help. I looked towards the door and at that very moment, walking from the banisters into my sister's room, I saw a young girl. She looked about 7 or 8, with hollow eyes and long dark hair. She had a distinctive dirty face and her clothes, which although it seems "typical" were dark long sleeves with a white pinafore over the top, which was also covered in dirt. I remember seeing the way she walked, dragging her feet along the floor. It all happened in slow motion although it must have only lasted 5 seconds at the most. As soon as she had disappeared into the other room, the weight on my legs lifted. Since that night, I've never slept with my bedroom door open again, even though I have moved house several times.

After that incident, the "unexplained" incidents began to become more frequent. One thing that will always stick out in my mind is this. One evening, I had been going through my CD's (yes, CD's, what a novel idea!) and had taken them all out of their cases and put them to one side. It was late and my parents kept coming in and telling me to go to bed. I did eventually and my mum told me that I had to put all my CD's away first thing the next morning. I went to sleep anyway and the next morning I woke up and went to put my stuff away to find that all my CD's were back in their cases and the cases piled neatly on my desk. Nobody else was in the house at this point and they had all been in bed by the time I'd turned my light out the previous night. So when they got back, I asked if anyone had touched them and nobody had been in my room. Which I knew because, as a very light sleeper with a very creaky bedroom door, I would have heard them come in and woken up. From then on, things in my room would move or tidy themselves. Although I tried to convince myself it was some sort of sleep walking to begin with. Until one time I had left an empty house for an hour, came back to an empty house to find that several of my ornaments had moved and books were out of place.

I seem to take this kind of thing with me and after moving house to a small Victorian cottage, things continued to happen. But to a bigger extent. I had Grace by this point and she would wake up in the middle of the night screaming and when I went to check on her she would be sat up, staring towards the built in cupboard thats door had opened, apparently by itself. One night, I had a graphic dream about a man. He was standing in the doorway to my bedroom, he had blood all over his hands and he started walking towards me. As he did so, he put his right hand onto the wall next to the door. I woke up shortly after and went back to sleep. The next morning, I was walking back into my bedroom when I noticed a handprint, much bigger than my own, on the wall next to my door. It was a brown/red colour. I took a picture of it, you can just about make it out:

But, despite all of this and more, I am not a full believer. I am still slightly sceptical and I'm always looking for a more reasonable explaination. As I said, it could all just be down to my overactive imagination. Most of the time it is. The concept of ghosts existing seems almost impossible, thinking logically. If they exist, why do they only seem to appear in the "right" location or at night? Why has a ghost never been seen walking around Asda? If there are spirits all around us, how can they pick and choose when and where they appear. You should be able either to see them all the time or not see them at all. When people see their dead friends and relatives as spirits, is it more of a comfort thing than that they have truly seen them? My grandparents have claimed to have seen their dead parents a number of times (although I have to say, their house is one of the most eerie places come nighttime) and that when seeing them they felt a huge sense of relief and calm. I suppose it's the same as believing in Heaven, in a way. Believing that your loved ones are watching over you. Having said all of that though, I must touch briefly on this point. One which made me think. As human's our range of sight is actually fairly limited. We only see in one type of light spectrum, anything outside of that spectrum is not visible to us. For example, we cannot see infra-red. Is there then, a possibility, that ghosts reside outside of our visibility, only entering it on occasion which is the moments where we claim to be able to see them?

Many sceptics argue the existence of the supernatural, ghost activity in particular, as illogical thinking and an over-reaction of the imagination. They provide many alternative explainations to what some would describe as a supernatural experience. Sleep paralysis for example. This is where, upon falling asleep or awakening, a person is "paralysed." It can also produce hallucinations, some extremely vivid, which is why some say that supposed ghost sightings at night when in bed, are infact linked to sleep paralysis and these "ghosts" are merely hallucinations. Some sceptics simply do not believe in the supernatural because it has not been scientifically proven to be true. The countless number of hoax photographs that emerge do not help the case of those who claim to have genuine proof that these things exist as it only puts further doubt into the mind of a non-believer.

Other than ghosts there are many other forms of supernatural beings that people believe exist. Demons, poltergeists. But it's not just supernatural beings that people believe exist, but also extra-terrestrial. Aliens. Many people all over the world claim to have had some kind of alien encounter. Whether it be seeing a UFO or actually being abducted. Claims of strange objects and lights in the sky are made every day. Usually these "UFO's" turn out to be weather balloons to aircraft. The most infamous report on the subject of aliens is the Roswell incident. It is a widely discussed conspiracy as to what actually took place in Roswell. In 1947, in Roswell, New Mexico, a UFO allegedly crashed and it and its passengers were retrieved by the military. They claimed that the debris found was infact, that of a weather balloon, however many alien fanatics believe that this was a cover up and they did actually discover extra-terrestrial life but have been forced to keep it confidential, hence the story of the weather balloon that emerged. Again, there have been photographs of the supposed aliens, along with video footage of an alien autopsy, which was found to be partly faked and therefore, deemed unsuitable as evidence for the existence of aliens.

There is also the phenomenon that is ball lightning. Ball lightning is a spherical "ball of light" seen mainly after thunderstorms. These balls of lightning fall rapidly, as with normal lightning but can spring back up in a number of directions. This is often an explaination for UFO sightings, which usually consist of people seeing a ball of light, moving rapidly in different directions across the sky, even hovering for a few seconds before shooting back up. All are also characteristics of ball lightning. 

When we think of aliens, we picture those grey skinned, bug eyed creatures. We imagine them as hostile, wanting to probe us and take over the planet. Their disc shaped spaceships, shooting out lasers. That's Hollywood for you. But in reality, aliens could actually be anything. They could look like us. They could even look like cows. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that aliens exist. Because another race from another planet is what we would call "alien" and I'm not naive enough to think that humans on planet Earth are the only living creatures in the Universe. Somewhere out there, there is another planet like ours, that can support life. They probably wouldn't be like us. But the possibility is definitely there. There is also the possibility that they are far more advanced than we are. Do I think they would travel here to destroy us? No. Infact, I don't think they would travel here at all. We have never discovered any kind of extra-terrestrial beings in our solar system. Therefore, any other civilisation would have to live beyond our galaxy. For them to build a spaceship that not only could travel that far but also live long enough to make the journey of hundres of thousands of lightyears, to me is inconceivable. Of course, I wouldn't rule it out as impossible, but it seems illogical to think that there are little green men hovering above the planet in their UFO's that have somehow not been spotted by any satellites, waiting to beam people up so they can probe them and then send them back again. And these people who claim to have been abducted are always very average people. Surely, if aliens wanted to know more about us as a race, they would beam up somebody important and interesting, like the President of the United States or someone famous like Justin Bieber (fingers crossed they wouldn't send him back) 

As a topic that I sit on the fence with, which for me is quite a rarity, I cannot really come to any solid conclusion about this. All I can really say is that only you know what you experience. You can choose to think rationally or you can embrace what you believe. We don't know for sure if these things exist, neither do we know if they do not. Science has not provided us with any complete evidence for or against and so the disagreement will continue. When you experience something out of the ordinary, it can alter your previous beliefs and likewise, when you rationalise them in your mind, you can also change your views. I am very much a "see it to believe it" person, sat on that fine line. I have, however, "seen" and yet still I can't fully make my mind up because I am very scientifically minded and my rational side is constantly making exuses for anything I experience until science can prove it either way. And until then, I suppose none of us will really know for certain.

1 comment:

  1. Hmm. I try and treat these things scientifically, and i've seen some VERY weird shit in my life. The interaction between the spiritual/physical world is an interesting one - i.e. if spirits move things around etc.

    One thing to remember is that our brains are hard-wired to recognise patterns. In our palms, in tea-cups, in smoke, in clouds, in rocks, in sands, in photographs etc.

    The way i look at it is to start with the 14 physical senses. We see things because light (as a form of radiation) is reflected and adsorbed by matter, and our eyes perceive that by allowing light into them. So anything we see must be a form of matter - including "ghosts". Sound is a vibrating movement of air picking up by our ears. And so on. So whatever we "sense" must have some form of 3-dimensional physical origin to be picked up by our physical senses. I'm cynical about how these "entities" appear (they look like they do in films, and seem to like buildings), and what they do when they're supposedly manifested (e.g. arrange CDs). Or how a "spirit" is invisible in life, but somehow visible after death (that doesn't make any particular sense).

    If they're "spiritual" beings, it doesn't seem particularly logical that they also can exist in the physical world (two separate plains, so to speak), as the opposite should be true for us.

    The only explanations "spiritual" people give are woolly metaphysical ideas about energy, dimensions etc. Just ideas and imagination, rather than any solid science (not in the "ghost", in our "reception" of it).

    Interesting thing on aliens: google for the "Drake Equation". It's as likely for them to find us, as it is for us to find them. The universe started 13.6B years ago, so speaking in evolutionary terms, it's also unlikely they would be significantly more advanced. When you consider just how specific the conditions have to be to support life in this solar system, the chances get even more remote. But if they do turn up, i'm first on the ship.

    Just saying.