I remember when I was learning about my trade, computers, and my instructor would come up beside me, put his hand on my shoulder, lean in to the board or system I was working on, and say...
"Boy, are you stupid. You are an absolute twit. You don't know what you're doing, you won't accept how things are actually done, you don't listen, and you will always suck at this."
Then he'd walk away, talking only to other instructors loudly about how I'm a moron.
I learned so much! I mean, wouldn't you?
Okay, that's not how it happened, and to be honest, I've been in my career field since the late 1980's, (IBM DOS 2.1, REPRESENT!) but apparently, this sort of discourse is EXACTLY how one teaches a vulnerable person to think twice before contacting a psychic when they're desperate for help, as a recent situation and interview has proven.
Before getting into this, let me go to another place... I promise we'll return to this in a bit.
This past week, three women who were abducted at various ages were found alive and (as) well (as can be expected) after years of confinement and abuse in Cleveland, Ohio. Click here for a link to the Wiki page on this horrible situation. This case takes a bad turn to the "psychical" with the fact that one of the mothers, Louwana Miller (mother of Amanda Berry,) after exercising a tireless campaign after her daughters disappearance for literally years trying to find her (and "knowing" she was still alive, finally found and received information from renowned psychic, Sylvia Browne.
It should be pointed out that although MANY people put a large amount of stock into Ms. Browne's abilities, her track record is actually very spotty... including everying from giving false hope to families of trapped miners at the Sago Mine disaster, to telling other parents of their dead and/or living missing children and being horribly wrong. It might also allow pause to any followers/readers/clients of Ms. Browne to know she has at least two companies incorporated for her "businesses"... and a church set up devoted to herself. Again, please feel free to look this up.
As you can guess, Ms. Browne made a boo-boo again, and told Ms. Miller that her daughter, Amanda Berry, was indeed dead. According to Regina Brett, a Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist on the CBC radio program, "Day 6", Browne was Ms. Miller's last hope... and she died of a broken heart over the news her daughter was dead.
According to another interview with yet another person related to the situation (news item in the CBC again)...
Cleveland councilwoman Dona Brady said she had spent many hours with Miller, who never gave up hope that her daughter was alive.
"She literally died of a broken heart," Brady told The Associated Press.
Ms. Miller passed away of heart failure in 2006 in her mid-forties.
Now, seriously, did Sylvia Browne contribute to this woman's death? That's up to the reader... but in my estimation, she didn't help... and SHOULD shoulder some of the responsibility. (I do hope some forward-thinking lawyer is working on a lawsuit for all Sylvia Browne's clients who could be seen as Sylvia Browne's victims.)
You may remember this blog post (click here) I did a while back... and got a LOT of nasty e-mails and messages about... but now is it understood?
Do I believe all psychics are like Sylvia Browne? No, of course not... but why aren't the non-predatory folks standing up in unison to disavow this sort of behaviour? It won't be long before the "stink" of Sylvia's bad guess and its consequences ripple down to everyone through the so-called sceptical organisations...
...speaking of which, also on the program "Day 6" was James "The Amazing" Randi... former magician, full time auto-denier... but in THIS case (and a few others,) we should have found common ground. I (like many others in my field,) have always had an issue with Sylvia Browne's work, but this is one of the times where her bad "readings" had seemingly physical ramifications... (This is why almost no psychic will discuss health issues with a client... fear of being wrong with a physical result.)
Randi was asked about why people turn to psychics like Browne despite this sort of news. Randi's answer?
"Because there are a lot of naive folks out there, Brent (Bambury - host of the show). People who just don't listen to what's being told to them. They don't listen to the newscasts, and there'll be a lot of people who, tomorrow, won't know that Sylvia Browne created such a great gaff as making a mistake with Amanda Berry, for example."
<-- Snip! -->
"People out there won't listen to criticism like this. They just will not listen. They are determined to be fooled. They are determined to be scammed and that's why they're scammed."
no hope for these people who NEED to be scammed and are incapable of listening.
Randi also spent a reasonable part of the interview addressing Sylvia Browne on the radio show as if she would answer in real time... or might be listening to the CBC (or NPR as the show is also on that network.)
Remember my computer lesson at the beginning? How much would I have learned?
How much is Randi hoping to teach by belittling a potential Browne client or even someone considering buying one of her books?
Oddly enough, MANY other sceptics have realised that the tested, tried, and "Whoops!" method of wagging the shaming finger at people, telling them their idiots, calling them names, and basically bullying them with the idea that their belief PROVES they're beyond help has not been all that successful in helping curb the amount of bad decisions (like believing a Sylvia Browne "reading,) and help getting people to investigate and maybe find out that there's better courses of action... or at the very least, take certain things with a grain of salt... or at least, not so much to heart.
Nope, in telling people they "don't" listen and "don't" pay attention (and little else,) then you make things adversarial and shut down any possibility of discourse and, oh, I don't know, teaching and Learning?
Granted, I shouldn't be too harsh on Randi, who continues to preach to a choir. He has his educational organisation (yeah, I know, well, it's still called an "educational" organisation... regardless...) to fundraise for and appearances to make to as much of an audience as possible... and taking time to actually educate those that need the help is not nearly as exciting or press-inducing as calling out Sylvia Browne personally by having a once-sided "conversation" on a CBC radio program with her. People will always spend money on things they already believe and have faith in and the lure of being able to say how "smart" you are by backing that same horse is a tempting one...
...but again, I'm pretty damned sure that no JREF folks nor CSI/CFI (formerly CSICOP) folks need help being told to be sceptical of things like Sylvia Browne's predictions... and these people, the Randi choir, are the ones who funds JREF...
I mean, Randi's organisation COULD help pay for some lawyers (they have the money and resources) and a law suit to help those hurt by Sylvia Browne and put a dent in her wealth... but one wonders if that would be good for their business... Hmm...
So, who DOES it fall to? Who should go out and maybe say to people, "Be Careful" without insulting them or making it a combatative situation?
Who can actually educate?
If I may have my (possibly) one sided conversation with Mr. Randi here on this post now... (Hey, I can adopt certain methods!)
Sorry, Randi, but this sort of bluster won't work.
I HATE making you the "bad guy" in this post, as Sylvia Browne is a bigger issue in my eyes, but STOP being a finger-wagger and seemingly picking a fight and START reaching out and actually HELPING people.
I've often cited being a very young man watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and seeing you demonstrating "psychic surgery" when I was (oddly enough,) far more cynical about things "weird" then I am now... it was and odd focal point in my life to NOT just question things, but demonstrate them for all... because although the demonstration was amusing, it made the point without making those watching it feel like dinks.
Telling an audience that they don't listen and not telling them MORE about WHY they SHOULD listen, and ignoring that some people ARE hurting and need a soft touch helps no one... save the Sylvia Brownes of the world who now have "friends in the foxhole" of your battle... and you look only like a bully. You make it easy for more "touchy-feely" types to leap onto the "Love and Light" Browne Bandwagon.
You, yourself talking to Bambury on "Day 6" made the excellent point, these people are hurting... perhaps as opposed to dismissing them and hammering at them, you reach out gently and offer help?
...or, you can just keep on keepin' on.
You're not helping, Randi... except for your followers who get to be good sycophants with little substance... and help polarise and energise the "Love and Light" crowd against the easy target of the bully.
Glad you got some media from this woman's suffering and this case.
On the evening of June 5th, we watched James ("The Amusing") Randi on the Larry King Live TV program. Randi was pitted against a psychic lady named Rosemary Altea, who was there to push her book, called "You Own the Power". Randi was there to push his famous million dollar offer for proof of psychic abilities.
To us, the program was a draw. Rosemary failed to come up with anything spectacular in her "cold readings" for phone-in fans. Randi, on the other hand, failed to convince Rosemary or Larry King that his million dollar offer is legitimate. Said Rosemary, "Behind every door is another door".
We have always felt that one could levitate right through the wall of Randi's house while reciting tomorrow's stock market report, and the Amazing One would not be amused or impressed!
One day, I may share the... um... innebriated anniversary message for Mr. Moseley (which also was my last "personal" drinking moment for health reasons,) but not today!
"Okay!", I say to myself, "I have my idea, my books and notes in place, and I'm ready to sit down and write a wonderful..."
...and then, I hear the dreaded notification sound... sometimes even the phone rings... and I prepare, even before reading the message or speaking, the obligatory apology.
"I'm sorry this happened..."
"I'm sorry you didn't agree with..."
"I'm sorry you feel..."
"I'm sorry for..."
Over the last year, an astonishing amount of my time has been used apologising... and some among you might way, "My gosh! You mean your team/site/Facebook/whatever is really THAT bad???"
Oddly enough, no.
The vast majority of my apologies are for the behaviour and actions of people who are not a part of PSICAN or Torontoghosts or Ontarioghosts or any of 'em. The majority* of the apologies are for...
- Comments made on message board/Facebook groups by people NOT on our teams (of whom I have no say or any form of sway with.)
- Comments made by people who are not members of/part of PSICAN or any of the PSICAN groups that have been made on other sites/boards about PSICAN that others take as gospel.
...and the most common* RIGHT now...
- Comments from everyone from site managers to government officials to even private home owners about 'ghost groups' (not us, but other folks,) who are contacting them to do whatever for whatever reason... and "we" get blamed for their actions.
Which, so far just today, has been the last two "apologies" I've made... and yes, that's only today.
"WHAT!?!", you may cry, "How are YOU to blame for THEM!?!"
Two things you need to acknowledge...
First is that many of the people at many historic sites and known "haunted" businesses have dealt with me specifically... sometimes Sue... so we're the contact.
Second is that to them, "ghost people" are OBVIOUSLY "ghost people" and as such, are all the same.
Need an example? Probably about 10% (maybe?) know who Stephen LeBlanc, Shawn Evans, and John Taveras are... most (including you) probably don't. Well, they're professional lacrosse players! Solved!
Really? What league do they play in? What teams? What cities???
To a hard-core (or even very interested,) lacrosse fan, you're lack of knowledge is disturbing!
WORSE YET, if you said, "Well, I think I saw John Taveras play for the Toronto Rock on television once..." OUTRAGE from a Buffalo fan would be immediate!
Lacrosse is one example... I could use...
- Doctor Who villains
- Star Trek starship names
- Dark Shadows actors/actresses
- Punk music stars of the 70's and 80's
...or a plethora of things here.
There are fans, casual fans, and people obsessed with these things. Same is true for things ghostly.
TYPE A (the most commonly found) people not-so interested (which sorry, is the bulk of the people you see walking the streets or driving to work,) and they might know a horror movie or a ghost story... they probably couldn't even tell you who stars in the movie! They know the Ghostbusters and thought it was hilarious.
TYPE B (found in quantity, but not the majority) people SLIGHTLY interested might know there's television shows... and friends that have stories or an interest... but that's about it.
TYPE C (a minority to be certain) people know several stories, reports, have opinions on things, know the various television programs, and MIGHT know the names of the people involved with them... this is nowhere near a majority of the people "in the world".
TYPE D (a smaller minority) people understand the television programs are nonsense and entertainment, that's there's "X" group and "Y" group online working locally, might contribute to a Facebook wall or the like. They might have visited a place known to be "haunted" and checked it out themselves, and may have their own reports and stories to share.
TYPE E (rare in the extreme) people deeply involved in the study know that the television and movie stuff is utter rubbish and overall hurts the study by tainting witnesses and experients, are familiar with the Society for Psychical Research, maybe the Rhine Institute, maybe the Parapsychological Association, and own many books on the subject. They understand the actual difference between parapsychology and "ghost hunting" and are willing to at least glance at academic papers and the like for more and better information. They would MUCH rather spend time listening to Dean Radin, Rupert Sheldrake, and/or Loyd Auerbach then any "celebrity".
Anyone above and beyond TYPE E is really rare... and usually embedded within one of the bigger, better known groups mentioned in some fashion.
If you doubt the above "types", DO NOT quiz your friends or the people you know... quiz people at a mall... or on the street. In Toronto, for example, last night, had there been a news story on the ABSOLUTE proof of the survival of consciences after bodily death, probably 70% of people would talk about it at work or school on Monday briefly. A far greater number last night and even Monday would be discussing the Toronto Maple Leafs' win over Boston in the playoffs as well as maybe the proof news story but potentially without giving any thought or discussions time to survival.
NOW, understand... the vast majority of people working for or running a museum, historic site, or a business... and the MAJORITY of home owners fall into the TYPE A and TYPE B categories above...
Ergo: Like the lacrosse players, ghost people are ghost people... we're all the same... so you Google the first one you find and THAT'S who's responsible!
"Dear Sir, because of this e-mail I received,
YOU SUCK and are never welcome here!"
For the people we know, it's STILL similar... "I heard from this guy on your team..." and then the name is NOT a guy on our team and then we note the "guy" in question never claimed to be a "guy on our team" and yet, they came to us.
Right now, there's a load of "guys" (and "gals",) who feel that certain people should be FLINGING open their doors for them, welcoming the ghost hunters with EAGRE abandon as it's PUBLICITY!
Most of the historic sites are funded as "educational" sites and since TYPE A - C above (the vast majority of the population) don't care about ghostly things save mid-October through Halloween, it's of little or no use to promote these things. Most of the above are funded by the government or through historical boards... they don't need ghost people... it's a privilege to get to work with them, not a right, and often, it helps the sites very little. In fact, the sceptical organisations which are firmly entrenched in many academic groups, will hurt their funding if they go heavy on the "woo-woo" tourism... worse yet, if they have ONE board member who questions the validity or safety of being known as a "haunted site", you're done.
Most private businesses also do not have a large stock in "ghostly" stuff... they make their way with their business.
Home owners, as a rule, are often worried about the stigmatism associated with being known as "The Haunted House"... which includes everything from fears of vandalism from thrill seekers to simply decreased property values from perspective buyers "put off" by buying a haunted house. (Again, if you're in that minority that doesn't think this is a problem, ASK A REALTOR/ESTATE AGENT.)
So, again, these people are approached by idiots, they Google up the names of the local ghost people and often complain to THAT source, because, after all, John Taveras is an awesome lacrosse player for the Philadelphia Roughnecks, Darth Vader was terrifying in Doctor Who, and I loved Robert Pattinson in Dark Shadows! (Lacrosse is lacrosse, sci-fi villains are sci-fi villains, and vampire fiction is vampire fiction, right?)
For the record, I've even wrote THIS (click here) post to try and help those people mucking up certain sites... but it's only useful for those who can read.
So, welcome to my day... and where this gets self-indulgent... and whiny...
For the last three months, EVERY time I settle in to write about something, I have to put out a fire, apologise, play politics, sooth nerves, write explanations, and source "bad guys" with an explanation like the above...
...and then, exhausted, I put away the books, notes, and the like and go to bed... or watch something entertaining (NOT A GHOST SHOW) on television. (For the record, I've *never* once sat through a complete episode of ANY of the popular reality-ish ghost hunter television programs. What little I've seen makes my blood pressure rise too much.)
So, a lack of productivity based on holding hands and talking people down... and, as demonstrated above, sometimes to the benefit of all. (A large part is, as stated, trying to re-open the doors which jackasses have had slammed shut.)
Not a DAY goes by where Sue and myself wish we could just "walk away" and do our own thing privately...
Why don't we?
We've explained this...
We don't want fame. Sycophants DO NOT help us. We are experients ourselves. We want answers. We don't work on blind faith. We need HELP.
Not "help" to be "successful and famous", but help to look into what we experienced, and as time HAS shown, what many of you have experienced as well... so we need input. Ideas and thoughts... experiments and other sources... we even try to understand that since these CAN be spritual, philosophical, and faith-based studies, everyone who tries to help or work with us may differ and not even get along on those levels, but we need the input and try to instill a tolerance within and without our work to help... to do all this, we need to...
...oh, hang on... just got a message... let me answer it...
"Yes, I'm sorry. No, I'm sure they didn't mean it. No, I cannot do anything about it, but I do apologise for whatever it was."
Sorry, where was I? Oh right! Something about my work... um... yeah.
Go Leafs Go!
Addenda:Yes,I'm aware of the irony that I wrote THIS but didn't have time for THAT... but I'm a clever fellow... NEXT time I have that apology to send, I will include the link to this post and VOILA! Cuts down the response time! One rant for dozens of e-mail response! Woot!
* - These are the most common, but yes, we do get rare (grand total of five since 2009) "complaints" about our own team as well sometimes... the most prevalent complaints are those about our Facebook group and the like... and usually about "mean spirited" comments. To answer this one quickly, PSICAN is not and will not be censors or "thought police". We (PSICAN, not Sue and Matthew, but the organisation,) don't have any PSICAN specific views OTHER than when someone on our team presents something for or to PSICAN, it's done in a neutral way where evidence and data are presented to back up any claims or ideas... and hypothesis and opinion are kept separate... so you know when you're looking through our work on the website, it meets certain criteria. We do not "police" our members nor is there a "hive mind" for beliefs, faith, or the like... only in terms of official data presentation. We (as a group) TRY to be respectful, but reserve the right of opinion and will ask questions and potentially put forward contradictory views... these are welcome and doubly-so when evidence is shown. If you feel slighted or hurt by someone on our team, PLEASE read through our Rules of Governance and Code of Presentation (click here) and let us know where the member has broken a rule. If they have not, then it's up to individuals to work out problems amongst each other and again, we will not police people for thoughts and opinions unless they break any posted rules. PLEASE understand that "social media" should be considered different from our website and documents therein as well.
We love to hear your personal experiences with ghosts, and hauntings in the province of Ontario so please do keep sending them in. Your privacy will be protected, and witness comfort is our primary concern. You may email us directly at submissions AT torontoghosts.org or submissions AT ontarioghosts.org
One King Street West Toronto - (updated)
Lovesick Lake Park - (new)
Georgian Bay - Hope Island (updated)
Private Home - East York (new)
High Park Toronto - The Man In Black (updated)
Fergus B&B (new)
Parry Sound - Blackstone Harbour (updated)
Frog and Firkin North York (updated)
The Former O'Keefe Centre (updated)
The Former Police HQ on Jarvis (updated)
I often, on this blog and elsewhere, complain that the 'so-called' sceptics, ardent atheists, overly 'true believers', and evangelicals all share one thing in common... a ferocious need to preach hard to convert people to their side... often it feels like they think they'll change me...
I often don't include another animal to that pantheon of stereotypes... though sadly they belong...
I'm certain we all have friends that are fans of "this" or "that"... be it a television show, movie, or some form of music.
For example, I'm not terribly fond of "traditional" (hurtin') country music. There are people in my life that think this is horrible. They try to indoctrinate me with Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, and Tammy Wynette to name only three. I don't HATE it, but I just have trouble "getting into" it... and people have tried.
...but these fans of this genre respect my tastes, and don't get angry or feel the desperate need to force it upon me... or change my mind through something like trying to "shame" me into a love of it... and they most certainly haven't stopped being my friend and made a public display of my obvious intolerance and ignorance because I dislike that style of music.
I am also not a 'pot smoker'. I am not a fan of it and although I shan't say I've never tried, I no longer get any enjoyment from it... so more than two decades ago, I just said "no" to marijuana at all for me... but I have many friends that feel very differently and do indulge... a certain well-placed astronomer, for example, was a large (private) advocate and enjoy-er of pot... but it's not for me... but I do believe it should be decriminalised as I see little difference between marijuana and a combination of alcohol and cigarettes... both of which are legal and taxed. I also do not believe in jailing people for small amounts in their possession as it's a waste on many levels. You may disagree with this stance, but it is coming from a non-smoker and it's an opinion, not a "fact".
This said, I do rail against people who lie to justify smoking pot...
As a PRIME example, "It's healthy!" I hear... and no it's not. Lighting ANYTHING on fire and sucking it into your lungs is NOT healthy... doubly so if it's completely not-filtered and worse when that smoke is inhaled very deeply. The reason for medical marijuana use is either to promote an appetite or lessen pain and nausea... not to "cure" anything and not to "help" with an ailment beyond those two effects.
If you know me on Facebook, I often discuss this talking point... loudly.
I could go on about how I have awards for marksmanship, enjoy shooting, have worked as a range officer, and still wish to (re)own a Baker Rifle... but I'm not a fan of easy access to firearms. I'm a *firm* believer in gun control, an outspoken opponent of hand guns, and generally believe that well over forty per-cent of current gun owners should not be allowed near (let alone to own) a firearm without two weeks of safety training and a thorough psychiatric and competency examination... and a long lesson in firearms storage.
How about the fact that I often battle with atheists, despite having "no dog in the race" personally? I am not religious, I practice no dogma, and no, I am not leaning towards starting any current faith... and hate being told how to think or what to believe... whether that be through shaming or bullying... so I dislike ardent religious types AND atheists who bang their drum equally... and I speak out against both quite often.
So, not a "fan" of hurtin' songs, marijuana (personally), open and easy access to firearms, and overly spiritual/non-spiritual conversion types...
These are personal and you are allowed to agree, disagree, or even make points on any of them... AND oddly enough, I've had good and respectful discussions on all of them with "opponents" with whom I'm still very much friends with and really, either we each "see each other's point but don't agree on all points" or just "agree to disagree"...
HOWEVER, and here's where the paranormal stuff begins...
One type of fan seemingly can not ever tolerate not having me (and people like me,) in lock-step with their firm beliefs and indeed, try to force and absolute "shared fandom" and do NOT like and will NOT tolerate dissension or worse, evidence that their faith or fandom is misplaced.
They refuse to read/see/hear evidence to the contrary and while preaching "love and light", they bash and make spectacles of themselves against anyone who defies them with facts, questions that can't be answered, or even open criticism... to be honest, they can seem very much like a cult in some ways... but when you properly define "fan", perhaps that is to be expected.
Of course, I am speaking of Para-Celebrity fame. People with either a love of, or indeed in cases, a desire to emulate to the point of comic book hero cosplay, become just like that person they saw on television.
I've met Elvis impersonators who've spent years honing their craft and thousands on clothing and accessories that take criticism of "The King" better than when someone asks if they think the evidence against their para-celebrity crush is enough to question their faith even a little.
What's worse is most of the para-celebrities on reality-ish television do sell charisma over ability, facts, information, or anything... they wrap up things that make the vast majority of people legitimately in the field scratch our heads by using smiles, 'good looks', 'voices like angels', drumming up people saying 'they're so nice' about them... and in this, the marks become more adamant than seems natural.
We get things like...
"This was a case of DEMONS!!!!"
...to which we say...
"Are you emulating 'X' para-celebrity (or para-celebrities), because looking at this, I don't think there's evidence to suggest that, plus looking at the definition of 'demon' as laid out by the Cath..."
...we usually get about that far, before...
"YOU'RE MEAN! YOU'RE UNFRIENDLY! YOU HATE THE ELDERLY AND LOVE CANCER!!!"
...well, not quite that overt. It's usually a "love and light" message dressed up to say the above with standard amounts of passive aggressiveness... Allow me to demonstrate...
"Wow! I didn't think you people hated 'X' so much to make that assumption! You don't even know 'X'! They are so sweet and kind and don't have to make things up ever! I can't believe how angry you seem at me for this... or them! You're bitter and it's just not easy to even talk to you! Everyone I know tells me and warns me about people like you... and I'm shocked anyone would speak to you ever. You're so elitist! I am now walking away from you and wish yo peace, love, and good energy to hope you move on from your issues... "
Did you notice though? Not one actual point made. Not one piece of data...
... anyway and more importantly, why doesn't anyone ask this...
"WHY do you question these people?"
...and then hang around for the answer, maybe do some research... find out. They put so much stock into being fans... up to and including spending thousands to see/meet/hear their idols in person or buy merchandise... why not find out why people like me have problems with them?
I'm gonna start you off if you're one of these people. It's about me personally... and even Sue (she pre-read this and approves)... and it's well documented and has history and indeed, you can see for yourself even by using a bit of Google...
First, let me tell you what it isn't...
We aren't jealous of their fame. A list of people we've said "NO!" to is pretty much available and if you think you're angry with me for any of my stances, you probably wouldn't believe how angry some people in the media are with me for yelling at them and telling them to "eff off". We also, at the time of writing this and for the foreseeable future, have exactly ZERO media projects (outside of publishing free articles and documentation AS we come by and/or write them up,) on the go... and are not seeking to do any. Again, feel free to find out!
We aren't jealous of their work. PLEASE, I'm begging you if you don't believe this... again, ask around to people NOT involved with media. Ask who's done more work of relevance to the study? Sue and myself, or 'X'... and I am talking work, not simply shining a usually incorrect light on things and "adding to the discussion". We're REALLY proud of what the answer to that is.
We aren't jealous of their "looks" or "charisma". In a few brief seconds of continued reading, you'll understand why looks and charisma can't and won't really help us... in fact, other people who use these tools VERY often hurt us.
We don't have a hidden anti-paranormal agenda. A list of "sceptical" organisations is available listing who dislikes us as much as para-celebrity fandom... granted USUALLY with a LOT more respect then the fans of these para-celebrities.
So, if these aren't the case... what's the problem?
Sue and I are both admittedly and without shame, "Experients".
Now, this next bit sounds harsh, but bare with me...
We are also "experients"... with intelligence and the ability to look at things clinically.
I know, I know... hang in there...
What this means is EVEN IF something sounds, looks... even FEELS in our very soul to be true... we want to double-triple-quadruple check and re-check it to make sure that it stands up to even a disinterested eye's scrutiny. We want to be able to take someone "on the fence" and show them facts, absolutes, the real stuff about what we now accept is "genuine" in terms of the paranormal.
This means even if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, smells like a duck, and even FEELS like a duck, we'll either get a duck expert in (from an avian zoological society or organisation, not a television or 'author-only duck expert',) to ensure INDEED, that's a duck.
Because when someone tells us SOMETHING must be SO, we don't automatically accept it as such... because we need proof for ourselves and in turn, for you who are helping us.
...and we sure as hell will NOT bring something to YOU as "absolute" without fully vetting it.
This doesn't mean anything that is unknown, hypothetical, or otherwise seemingly mysterious is a "no go zone", but it will be PRESENTED as hypothetical. Heck, we take a LOT of grief internally from our own people because we TRY to enforce this thought...
"Please know the difference between a fact, theory, hypothesis, and an untested hypothesis before presentation..."
If you think this is being overly pedantic and unnecessary, I disagree, but that's because of the thing I mentioned off the top...
I (and Sue) are experients. We've experienced things considered paranormal... but we're clinical and want actual facts and truths. Saying "My Theory is Orb Photos are Ghostly In Nature" is incorrect on a level most people can't even see...
A theory is something that started off as an untested hypothesis...
"Orbs in photos are ghosts"
...that has been experimented with...
"I went to haunted places, tried to experience ghosts, communicated with them, and orbs appeared in my photos."
...and questioned hard (with questions answered...)
"I communicated with them by 'X' means, and I'm certain it's not the most likely cause, airborne particles as I took these precautions and used a stereo camera."
...and finally, as we don't (and at the moment can't) have ALL the answers to what's happening, (unless you also captured a ghost and we can poke and prod it a lot until it spits out some orbs for us on demand,) and that work has been peer reviewed (you're tests and methods have been tested by several different people who have some authority in NOT GHOST PHOTOS, but cameras and photographic equipment people who are not trying to prove their own points,) and the same results received, THEN YOU HAVE A THEORY!
That's the difference... and although you may not think that simple choice of words and methods is important, other people... potentially people who can help the study way more than a television programme can, see it too. (Think actual scientists, museum folks, historians, psychologists, etc., etc...)
Don't even start me on the word, "energy"... I've had people threaten to leave our group over my stance on that!
"BUT WHY!?!", I hear you ask... "WHY are you SUCH an arrogant elitist turd!?!"
...because I don't want to believe... I'm already at that point as an experient.. I need to know WHAT HAPPENED and WHY.
I already believe people DO experience weird stuff... I want to know WHY and HOW.. .and I want it proven to me and everyone to the best of OUR abilities.
When something remains unproven to everyone, but is accepted by a small (or even larger) group or people that cling to each other, that's called a "church", "faith", "religion", or at the worst, "cult"... like I said, many fans of para-celebrities come off as cultish.
When something is questioned, tasked, poked-at, discussed, debated, examined, and people are made to ensure they have all evidence hard and fast presented for review, THAT'S called "science", "academia", or at the very worst, "being 100% sure"... and I like being 100% sure as I can be.
So, when someone spews off a "fact" gleaned from a television show and nothing else, and even uses a weird choice of words to substantiate the data given, I am not happy... and I KNOW I'm not alone.
I'd LIKE to think anyone reading my "stuff" isn't happy with that either and WILL question it. There are alternatives out there if they're not and wish to simply say, "Yup! Whatever you say!"
Next thought is about the fact (and it is fact,) that the evidence of the para-celebrities "sexing up" (lying, faking, often playing up to a LARGE degree,) their media offerings to make them more commercial(?) is not hidden...
...EVEN BY THEMSELVES... (usually admitted only when they're "caught", cancelled, or highly questioned...)
Usually you hear things like...
"We had to do it. The producers made us!"
"We had no control over that aspect, so we had to..."
I refer you to the above... I have said no to producers from outfits that do productions for Fox Television, TLC, BBC, and SO MANY MORE!
...because I wouldn't dance to the "Ghost Busters" theme for a camera. My work is more important than a paycheque that WILL ultimately, if I fib, be at YOUR expense.
Heck, JUST THIS LAST MONTH I cancelled a speaking gig at one of Toronto's larger libraries because the one employee asked me to speak and I relented and said I would... but then a co-worker responsible for the engagement expressed "concern" over the topic being "controversial".
So, of course, in my quest for fame and an audience, I completely re-thought my views, presentations, and overall topics of conversation, told this person that as they were a big venue and considered revered (as a library) and could mean more exposure for me and the group, that I made sure that now I have got everything straightened out with them!
I cancelled and told her, "When in doubt, don't."
Why would I do that??? It was a paying gig... at a LIBRARY!?!?! Hundred might have attended!!! I could have signed autographs!!!!! Maybe parlayed it into a media gig and an IMDB entry!!! I must be insane or be terrified of success!!!
Yes, it would have had a small honourarium... a payment for the gig... which I'd already said I was donating BACK to the library. I like libraries... They need funding. I work as a medical imaging tech for a paycheque. I do this stuff for interest, knowledge, and yeah, a love of the study.
As for autographs? WHAT FOR!?! Are you KIDDING!?! I'm a goob... anyone can do what I'm up to... FAME is NOT success for me.
Also, I will NOT temper my words.... because of what I said above... I don't make proclamations without firm evidence, I don't "sex things up", and I am an experient looking for truth... and would hope that in the audience, someone like me might be out there and they MIGHT benefit from my words. I am not a "god" and my words are not written in stone... LOOK THROUGH MY WORK... I openly say, "Take what works for you and leave what doesn't from my offerings... Adopt, Adapt, Improve on them." I REALLY am a student to... but as a student, I question... to paraphrase Jacon Brownoski, I am NOT hear to worship what you tell me is known... I'm here to question it.
LAST but certainly not least as to what my problem with para-celebrities are...
As an experient, I actually *do* feel a kind-of kinship to others that have similar experiences... or even just feel that they have...
...and it's difficult to take you completely without issue until YOU are up until 2am with a single mother who watched a demonic ghost on television and is now terrified about her baby because of "weird noises" she only just started hearing... and yes, it's pretty obvious it's the equivalent of a young person watching a horror movie and fearing Freddy is coming to them in their dreams to wreak unbelievable horror... but Freddy is CLEARLY fiction... this drivel, although AFTER THE CANCELLATIONS AND BEING CAUGHT is ALSO labeled fiction, it's presented as fact... so she's genuinely worried.
For some, this scenario really was the same as the news anchor of their preferred news source showing them that supernatural evil and horror is everywhere and it'll come to get you... oh, and buy the products in the ads on this show and consider seeing us live when we come to your town and...
...but they contact the people who friends have told them are trustworthy... like us... and what do we have.
I know, you're thinking HOW OFTEN could that "single mom" thing happen really!?! Especially in Ontario!?!
Three times... in the last four years...
...and there's been far worse.
So, the fakery promotes genuine fear and scares... and it really doesn't matter if it's a producer's or "Hollywood's" fault, THEY ALLOWED IT TO HAPPEN... and they didn't have to... and they COULD have stood up THEN and said something at the very least...
Why didn't they?
No "backbone"? Fear of "lawsuits"? Would that make it okay for you???? DOES that make it okay for you??????
It doesn't for me. It can't...
...because I'm an experient and it would NOT do for me.
Even in my current role, if I did something similar, hoaxed/faked/sexed-up for scares... I'd be crucified by many... including and ESPECIALLY those that defend the para-celebrities now.
Can you imagine, after typing the THOUSANDTH e-mail explaining to someone that they really, Really, REALLY shouldn't be afraid and they should NOT be paying a VERY sketchy person (who can parrot these shows as they've seen them too,) to clear their home or whatever, hearing that the REASON I'm supposed to be okay with these people is because...
"They have a voice like an angel..."
"They were so nice when I met them..."
...and lately and more horribly for me, yes me... the guy who's so strict on the use of the word "theory" because he want's the truth, to hear it's all okay because...
"They did apologise for what they did..."
Look, charisma does not equal correct.
If you find value in these shows and people, FINE... but you'll forgive me if not only do I *NOT* find any value in this... but find, in the short, medium, and long run, it's hurt my work A LOT.
If you feel the need to come to me and tell me peace, love, and light while you 'tear me a new one' for questioning and not being happy about your favoured para-celebrity, maybe NOW after reading this, you know why...
I liken people going to them for information on the paranormal to... well... an example...
Your home is burgled. Obviously, the BEST thing you can do is contact Benedict Cumberbatch and ask him to help.
Your home is burgled. Obviously you should call the actual authorities... not the charismatic (and excellent - yes, I like Sherlock too,) television performer.
I'm certain Mr. Cumberbatch is capable of deductive thought and reasoning, but he probably won't be of much help retrieving your laptop.
IT IS THE SAME... only difference is these television stars are taking queues ONLY from other television stars AND presenting themselves as honest and truthful... and then, once caught, cancelled, or otherwise put into a corner, asking for your forgiveness which more than a few of you seem eager to give.
....then you come to us and think we're the same...
...and expect us to be okay and not question and fall into line with you?
Do you get it now?
Like I said, I won't HATE you if you do like or find value in these people.. I will question you if you forced it down my throat...
...like I would question people who enjoy hurtin' songs and proceed to blast them "at me" to try and convert me...
...like I question those who say marijuana cures cancer and blow smoke in my face to "prove" it to me...
...like I question those who think anyone should be able to buy a Glock hand gun at their local convenience store for their kid and to prove it, wave their "totally safe" handgun in my face...
Honestly and without malice, I seriously suggest you simply find another group, site, or whatever that will reenforce your fandom and belief.
Screaming or "shaming" us won't help anyone. We're not here to worship, as I said, we're here to genuinely find out. If you're secure in your absolute knowledge, that's fine... but unless you have reviewable evidence that is incontrovertible... like the title says, we're not for you.
...oh, and you should know this (click here) too.
Not too long ago, a cryptozoological group proudly touted that their perfect evidence (a hair sample) had been DNA tested and proven to be of "unknown origin" thus proving the existence of potentially Bigfoot, or at least something else large and hairy in the forest that was not a known animal. Their data, to go a step further, had been published in a peer reviewed science journal. This news was not Earth shattering, but made the usual rounds.
A while back, on the PSICAN Facebook group, a ghost hunter(?) of sorts published his photograph of an orb which he said showed a strange shape/face/structure and indeed, on his blog, his photograph was peer reviewed and indeed, the consensus seemed to point to the image potentially being paranormal in nature.
Both the above happened.
Both are still unadulterated horse poop.
The Bigfoot hair reviewed in the scientific journal? The journal was an e-zine that only had one issue in it's history which just happened to be the issue with the ground-breaking study verified in it. There was no publications before... there have been no more since. It was seemingly set up by the crypto group for the express purpose of providing the favourable review of their findings.
The image of the orb? The review called a "peer review" was actually an online poll of anyone visiting the ghost hunter's website.
That crypto group was most likely purposely fraudulent for God knows what reason (probably hoping for "fame" and media attention, they kind of received it, but not a lot) and the ghost hunter(?) I believe was just working on and through his own definition of the process...
...and indeed, "peer review", if taken etymologically, would mean something checked and verified and potentially judged by an equal.
This said, the term "peer review" usually is used in terms of data being sourced by one or a group of academics who then submit their work to another group of academics, (usually in a 'higher academic station' in some fasion,) to critique and verify... otherwise, as an example, I could say something like...
KITTENS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD.
...and as an internet user, post it to the internet and wait... and I'm REASONABLY sure that my "internet using peers" would eventually be in the majority which means, GOOD NEWS! No need to worry about wars, pestilence, human rights, disease, hunger, exploration, education, health care, or anything! We can devote all our time, energy, and resources on kittens as indeed, this is the most important thing in the world according to my peer reviewed statement!
Now, this said (and I'm sure a few people are smiling and saying that indeed, kittens ARE the most important thing in the world,) let's submit this to actual peers... people who are directly involved with kittens regularly... which in this city where I live would be more often than not animal services, the Royal Society for the Prevention for Cruelty to Animals, and the Humane Society.
I would wager that they would not agree with this.
They would likely place having pets spayed or neutered being a priority... having pets vaccinated might edge general "kittens" in importance to them... licensing, identification, proper care...
...so within legitimate "peers" in terms of kittens, you probably would not have a consensus of people saying that "kittens are the most important thing in the world".
Now, let's look at the study of the paranormal...
When people submit data, be that a recording, an image, or a statistical gathering, who are they hoping to garner attention from?
If they want an honest criticism (which might validate the findings,) then they cannot simply have their buddies look things over. They would need to find an accredited group of people who have no vested interest in either promoting the evidence as factual and perfect nor stating it's nonsense. They must also find several folks (or one group) who have an established reputation in terms of neutrality and presentation of accurate data.
This means, if your team says, "Yeah! I looked it over and that is a genuine bit of Sasquatch hair!" and no one else, it does not count as true peer review.
Having the hair analysed by an established team of zoologists (perhaps from a local university, zoo, or zoological association,) working almost blindly on the hair sample and publishing their findings (or lack thereof) does.
Setting up a bogus group, publication, or journal (like the team of cryptozoologists did,) is academic fraud and misconduct... and personally, (and I'm willing to bet I speak for 99.999% of my colleagues,) once you cross that bridge, I will never trust you nor deal with you.
Like I said, the ghost hunter(?) was just using etymology and going too literal on the definitions of two words. I don't suspect he was intentionally defrauding online readers.
The crypto team are frauds in my view.
I can forgive the one, not the other...
If you wish to call something "peer reviewed", be honest and have integrity... and be willing to put your efforts out to be criticised. You may get negative feedback and possibly even be told "No!" by some of the people examining your work, but that's the point we hope... to learn from things and improve your information.
After all, if all you want is a bunch of agreeing sycophantic followers to tell you everything you touch is golden, then you're not in a study and you're not investigating... you're preaching.
So, if you want to be able to say, "This work is peer reviewed", contact an established group of peers... don't short-cut because that helps no one.
If anyone read this and wants to know "who" might be the best people to review something, feel free to post on our message board (if you don't have an account, the VIP code is 1967) under the appropriate section and tell us what work you wish reviewed. We will try to help and find the best fit with/for you... but also be prepared if we suggest that what you have is not something that is really "okay" for peer review.. not everything is... and that doesn't mean it's of no value, just that it may require a different angle or a quick re-working.
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The entries found on this blog are based on the thoughts and discussion of Matthew Didier and Sue Demeter-St.Clair...two paranormal investigators/researchers based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada who just also happen to be a couple.
We are founding members of The Ghosts and Hauntings Research Societies, PSICAN, and Pararesearchers of Ontario and are members and supporters of The Society of Psychical Research, and the Institute of Noetic Sciences
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