Respectful Insolence

…I am as appalled as my fellow ScienceBlogger Mark over this horrifically credulous article on ghosts on This Old House at CNN.com. Here’s a small taste, which comes after a long discussion of how to choose a “good” ghost inspector:

If natural explanations cannot be found, and it’s determined that there is indeed a presence in your house, the investigators will likely suggest you get in touch with a family minister so he or she can come to the house and to pray for the soul of the spirit that is present. This is not an “exorcism,” but simply an attempt to get the ghost to leave in peace.

If a willing minister is not available, the ghost hunter should be able to suggest another person capable of getting rid of ghosts — either a professional medium, psychic, or someone who is sensitive to spirits. This person should be someone the ghost hunter has worked with before, or who was referred through a legitimate source.

If the medium detects that a spirit is present, he will try to convince it to move on. How effective is this? It’s hard to say. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I often get calls from people asking for this service, but in my years in the paranormal field, I have found very few people trustworthy enough for this assignment. They are out there though, and your investigator should do all they can to get you in touch with them.

Let me assure you, though, that ghosts are not present to hurt anyone and in almost every case, a family can peacefully coincide with a spirit.

Unlike Mark, I don’t think this is a joke, although the article appears to be a reprint of an article that appeared in This Old House last year. Why CNN.com is reprinting such a credulous piece of rubbish, I have no idea.

Comments

  1. #1 Chemgeek
    October 28, 2007

    This story should not surprise you. People, in general, are idiots.

  2. #2 phil
    October 28, 2007

    Because the producers are incredulous liberal arts types ( if they were lucky enough to go to college ) who couldn’t tell you a mole from an angstrom.

  3. #3 Gullible Jones
    October 28, 2007

    Am I missing something, or would ghosts not be a “natural explanation” if they really existed?

    (Yes, it’s still a sticking point with me, and always will be. :P )

  4. #4 Heh
    October 28, 2007

    There’s something a little bit glorious in seeing someone mock “liberal arts types” for not knowing science, and then misuse the word “incredulous” to mean “credulous”. :)

  5. #5 factician
    October 28, 2007

    You’re making the common error that CNN is a news site. They stopped being a news site/channel about 7 years ago, and have been steadily getting worse and worse as an entertainment site.

    I equate them with The Learning Channel in quality (you know, the channel that shows “documentaries” with names like “The Ghosts of English Castles”).

  6. #6 Barn Owl
    October 28, 2007

    Avoid ghost hunters who dabble in magic, the occult, or offer “magical cleansings” of homes.

    Errrr…I think anything to do with hunting ghosts qualifies as magic or occult beliefs. It’s not exactly the sort of thing that can be accomplished with a scintillation counter, microscope, or thermal cycler, for example.

    Legitimate ghost hunters will not charge for their services.

    Legitimate ghost hunters = oxymoron

  7. #7 sailor
    October 28, 2007

    I find this totally hillarious:
    “Find out if he’s affiliated with a research group or a national organization, such as the American Ghost Society. Being affiliated with a group with a good reputation can help you make a better decision about allowing him into your home.”

    I think publishing it is jut part of the make-believe of Halloween.

  8. #8 SteveM
    October 28, 2007

    Doesn’t anybody have a sense of humor anymore? The TOH article is clearly tongue-in-cheek, treating haunting as though it was a leaky roof or some other renovation “issue”. And is it so inconceivable that CNN could be reposting it as a Halloween humor piece? Sheesh.

  9. #9 doctorgoo
    October 28, 2007

    SteveM is wrong. Whenever CNN.com posts an article that is meant as a humor piece or as satire (or anything but real news), they clearly mark it as such. For example:

    http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/10/10/onion.public.enemy/index.html

  10. #10 doctorgoo
    October 28, 2007

    Orac, our friendly blinking box, wrote:

    Unlike Mark, I don’t think this is a joke, although the article appears to be a reprint of an article that appeared in This Old House last year. Why CNN.com is reprinting such a credulous piece of rubbish, I have no idea.

    This ‘article’ looks more like an advertisement for This Old House more than a genuine article.

    I agree with factician above… CNN is getting squashed in the ratings, so they’re trying to transition from reporting real news to becoming another “infotainment” channel/website like Fox News.

  11. #11 Ex-drone
    October 28, 2007

    I offered to rid any house of ghosts for $1,000, with the guarantee that I would return the money to any unsatisfied customer as long as they could scientifically prove that they were still haunted. CNN did not print my comment.

  12. #12 Jon H
    October 28, 2007

    Eh. I’d be more concerned if this wasn’t clearly a seasonal story from a Halloween-themed issue of This Old House.

    It’s somewhat traditional, I think, for news outlets to occasionally run a story like this ‘in season’ without taking a hard skeptical approach, so they don’t come off as a wet blanket in a festive season where people want to read spooky stuff even if they don’t really believe it.

    If the story ran in June, I’d have a bigger problem with it.

  13. #13 casper
    October 28, 2007

    Oh, come on, now. CNN was just getting in the spirit of things. Raising the spectre of infotainment seems unnecessary – sure, they’re just doing it to boo-st their pageviews, but all the news sources do seasonal puff pieces. Is it any worse than the standard human interest stories?

    Skepticism doesn’t preclude whimsy.

  14. #14 Jon H
    October 28, 2007

    ” but all the news sources do seasonal puff pieces. Is it any worse than the standard human interest stories?”

    Or the annual “NORAD radar tracking of Santa”?