Elder offspring: I read about a house where the 17th stair on the staircase creaks because a man who was shot died on that stair.
Dr. Free-Ride: Oh, really?
Younger offspring: Why did it creak?
Elder offspring: Because the house is haunted.
Dr. Free-Ride: Hmm.
Younger offspring: By the man who was shot?
Elder offspring: Uh huh.
Dr. Free-Ride: Couldn’t there be some other explanation for the stair creaking?
Elder offspring: It creaks even when no one is walking on the staircase.
Dr. Free-Ride: I’m pretty sure that parts of houses can creak due to causes other than people walking on them.
Elder offspring: The book I read this in is a non-fiction book.
Dr. Free-Ride: Oh?
Younger offspring: Non-fiction means it’s true, right?
Elder offspring: Also, the title of the book is True Stories of Real Haunted Houses.
Dr. Free-Ride: OK, so the title is asserting authority. But don’t you think the authors, or the people the authors talked to about the houses, could be wrong? Maybe there really are other explanations for what they were seeing or hearing, but they just didn’t look for them.
Elder offspring: I don’t think so. My teacher went to another haunted house that wasn’t in the book with her husband. He smelled cigar smoke and she didn’t, and the person who was leading the tour said that sometimes in the house there’s a smell of cigar smoke that only men can smell. They were really freaked out.
Younger offspring: I would be freaked out.
Dr. Free-Ride: Look, I like a good ghost story as well as the next person, but …
Younger offspring: You don’t believe ghosts are real?
Dr. Free-Ride: I guess I just haven’t seen the evidence that would convince me.
Elder offspring: That creaking stair is pretty convincing.
Dr. Free-Ride: Look, at night, when we’re all in bed, our house creaks, but you don’t think it’s haunted, do you?
Younger offspring: No.
Elder offspring: Of course not! No one has died in it yet.
Dr. Free-Ride: I still think there’s a difference between a good explanation and a good story. You can enjoy the Harry Potter books without believing there are really wizards, right? You can enjoy stories about dragons even if dragons are mythical.
Younger offspring: But aren’t dragons real? I thought Dragonology had real samples of dragons’ scales.
Dr. Free-Ride: I can see Halloween might not be the day we get to the bottom of this.