Respectful Insolence

Ever since starting my blog nearly seven (!) years ago, I’ve concentrated mainly on skepticism in medicine, in particular examining various implausible medical claims that proliferate on the Internet and in our media like so much kudzu choking out science and reason. The reasons are two-fold. First, it’s what I’m interested in. Second, it was at the time an “underserved” blogging niche that allowed me to align my skeptical interests with a niche that allowed me to establish myself as a blogger. Ultimately, I became interested in the anti-vaccine movement and somehow found myself becoming one of the “go-to” bloggers for all things vaccine and anti-vaccine, which further solidified my niche. That’s not to say that I didn’t write about general skeptical topics. In fact, I used to do that a lot more often back in those days, when I’d cover topics such as creationism, Holocaust denial, 9/11 “Truth,” and the like. (I still can’t resist a good bit of pareidolia.) It’s just that I don’t seem to do that as much these days.

When I saw the following news report, I was disturbed enough to abandon my current “comfort zone” a bit. It also made me think of a post on the recent JREF blog by Sharon Hill pointing out the pernicious effect of the proliferation of “ghost hunting” shows on television. In this case, what bothered me is how these shows affect young people who are just learning science and who should be learning critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, although there is a contingent of the audience of these shows who watch them just for the entertainment value and openly scoff at credulous view of the paranormal promoted by them, a lot of the audience of these shows believe they’re real, just as many viewers of The Dr. Oz Show believe that he usually gives good medical advice, despite a lot of evidence to the contrary.

There are two huge things wrong with this news report, one on the news side and one on the topic side. On the news side, it’s obvious that the reporter is treating this as a fun, harmless bit of Halloween fluff. He begins the report by showing up in a trench coat stepping out of fake fog, the better to produce a suitably “spooky” atmosphere. He then introduces four ninth graders who are described as “focused on abandoned buildings and haunted woods, all in search of spirits.” He then starts the story by intoning, “Lights, cameras, apparitions.” The problem is that, while treating the subject matter as a light human interest story about four ghost hunting high school kids who shamelessly steal every trick in the book from the paranormal shows currently on the air, the reporter also treats the subject matter, namely the existence of the paranormal, with a high degree of credulity.

On the topic side, what’s wrong with this story is that it presents a story of kids being influenced by paranormal beliefs as a good thing. Michigan Uncovered is all about four high school kids who do a video series on YouTube called Michigan Uncovered. In the WDIV news report, they’re first shown wandering around an old graveyard asking things like, “I wonder if we can get an EMF reading off grave stones that are broken into pieces.” The teens are led by Cruce Grammatico and include Cruce’s friends Jake, Colton, Delo, and Cruce’s mother, who drives them all over Michigan given that none of the teens is yet old enough to drive.

Here’s an example of their work from one of their recent “ghost hunting” expeditions to an old hotel in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan known as the Blue Pelican Inn:


As you can see, all the elements are there, EMF meters with readings that mean nothing. Lighting effects that will be recognizable to anyone who’s ever watched one of the now many “ghost hunting” shows on cable channels ranging from SyFy to the Travel Channel to A&E and more. A lot of these elements are also shown in the news report as well, as the teens clamber around an old cemetery looking for ghosts and one of them claims to have seen an apparition. Too bad it wasn’t caught on camera. In the report, at one point the reporter’s voiceover intones that “Cruse admits when he started Michigan Uncovered he was a skeptic,” to which Cruse adds, “Due to all the things I’ve seen I definitely believe in the paranormal.”

Unfortunately, it shows. In the three or four Michigan Uncovered videos that I’ve viewed thus far, credulity is the order of the day (or night, given that most of these videos are shot at night). Basically, Michigan Uncovered looks like the work of talented amateurs aping the professionals doing any one of a number of the paranormal “ghost hunting” shows that currently populate basic cable. That’s not an insult, nor am I denigrating Cruse. He’s actually very talented and shows a high degree of production savvy for a 14 year old. With a bit of guidance and training, he could very likely develop his skills to the point where he could make a living in television or movies. Unfortunately, his success at Michigan Uncovered is teaching him the wrong lessons, namely credulity about the paranormal, the same dubious and scientifically risible methods that TV “ghost hunters” use to try to prove that ghosts exist, and that the paranormal is very popular and brings him attention and approval. Indeed, at the very end of the report, the reporter points out that the kids are in talks with a production company to do a reality show.

Of course.

The sad thing is, Cruse and his buddies are capable of showing a hint of skepticism, as they did in their most recent Halloween episode about Ouija boards, although you have to wait until near the very end of the video to see it:

They even include a disclaimer on the page itself:

We understand a lot of people will comment telling us NOT to use Ouija boards and that they’re very dangerous and that’s EXACTLY why we made this video. We wanted to show that Ouija boards are nothing but silly toys you can pick up at Target.

True, in the video there’s a whole lot of nonsense about “Satanic worshiping grounds,” how “we already know this area is haunted,” camera problems being represented as evidence that ghosts (or other paranormal things) were not happy they were there, and shaky, Blair Witch Project-style camera work, but in the end they conclude that Ouija boards aren’t real.

Watching the Michigan Uncovered videos, I can’t help but wonder what these kids would be capable of, if only they had a mentor, someone who could teach them how really to do paranormal investigations, someone who understands the relevant science, someone who could teach them what skepticism really is. I realize that making real skepticism and real investigations of the paranormal interesting is far more difficult than making the sort of “ghost hunting” these kids are doing entertaining, but with a bit of guidance I bet these kids could do it.

Unfortunately, what is far more likely to happen is that they’ll get their reality show deal and be rewarded for representing the paranormal as though it’s real, the same as the rest of the “ghost hunters” are. It’s the reason why so many others are taking up “ghost hunting.” It’s just that when it’s teens who are being influenced, the chance is high that credulity, rather than skepticism and critical thinking, will become their default way of life.

Comments

  1. #1 Jojo
    November 7, 2011

    Snake oil salesmen in the making.

  2. #2 Travis
    November 7, 2011

    These kids should really consider looking at other paranormal investigators like Joe Nickell. I wish he actually had his own program so that people could see what a reasonable look at these cases actually produces. And you will not seem him bumping around in the dark carrying an EMF reader. God I hate those things.

  3. #3 Denice Walter
    November 7, 2011

    About those ghost hunting shows:

    Such crocks they could be sold at Pottery Barn.
    I watched one because I thought it might serve as memory-drenched travelogue for me: it was about John Lennon ..in London, NYC, etc. They tossed in a story that he and Yoko- just prior to his death- wanted to purchase Bannerman’s Island. This is a creepy-looking island accentuated by a ruin of a castle that’s located in the middle of the Hudson 60 miles north of NYC. The related scenes involved several young reporters scampering around the island at night, shakey camera work, and mild shrieking…

    OK, I happen to be acqainted with someone who helps a trust keep up the island, run boat tours, and sells artwork featuring it: he says *he* never heard of anything relating Lennon to it. I tend to think that he would know.

  4. #4 Travis
    November 7, 2011

    I hope they can be saved. Growing up I was very, very interested in science. I read a lot of Gould, Dawkins, Sagan and many other popular science writers. Perhaps being young I did not fully understand what I was reading as I had not developed a healthy baloney detection kit and was also very interested in UFOs and ghosts. People like Stanton T. Friedman were proper investigators, they were scientists showing that UFOs were aliens, there were coverups, and that ghosts exist. Luckily somewhere in early high school I snapped out of it very quickly when I realized it was all a sham, just some cargo-cult science and that these investigators were usually confused or simply dishonest.

  5. #5 Daniel J. Andrews
    November 7, 2011

    I could never figure out why a ghost would create an EMF in the first place. Who decided they could do that? Prior to equipment that could read an EMF, ghosts were busy creating cold drafts. Why? I feel I must be missing an obvious connection.

  6. #6 Denice Walter
    November 7, 2011

    On a more serious note:

    As a sceptic who studied psychology I often feel that shows like these promote unrealistic beliefs that work against people’s best interests. A true story follows ( it doesn’t involve clients):

    M was worried about his brother Dave who lived 1500 miles away- at 60 Dave had had a run of bad luck, his cataract surgeries produced complications ( worsening his vision) and he was later seriously burned in a small house fire- because of these problems, he had to leave his longtime civilian job for the Navy ( computer work at a weather station) and couldn’t play tennis ( his avocation). Dave drank more and left for the West with a friend. His brother had trouble contacting him and he rarely replied. Over a period of 2 years, M tried to reach Dave by mail, phone, and psychic, finally he put in a police report for a “missing person”.

    On a cold January night, an officer rang M’s doorbell bringing the news that Dave had died alone in a motel in Montana. M had to travel there to tidy up his brother’s final affairs. Dave, during an extreme cold spell, had basically drunk himself to death. M inherited gold stock and other investments totalling nearly 250K US$.

    Grieving M consulted mediums trying to make contact and learn why he had died. I told him that I could also speculate but use real data ( about alcoholism, depression, etc) *and* I wouldn’t charge a penny. I understood how terrible he must feel – I *felt* terrible about Dave and I never met him. It would nice if people didn’t die and disappear forever from our lives but they do.

    Both of these guys had money and were brighter than average: neither sought help which might have changed the course of events or at least made it easier to bear for the survivor. For many ghost stories are entertainment and harmless fun: not for M. Oh, he still believes.

  7. #7 Sharon Hill
    November 7, 2011

    This is very much on target with my point of view. I have researched the use of “science” portrayed by very misinformed, misguided, non-scientific amateurs who do paranormal investigations. I recently completed a Masters thesis on what I called “Being scientifical” where I examined 1000 websites of these paranormal groups to see 1.) if they claimed they were scientific, and 2.) what they ACTUALLY meant by that. As you can guess, I was hard pressed to find ANY that they knew what it meant to participate in scientific protocol. (You can read more about that on my blog linked in the comment ID or contact me for the paper. There is also an article in press in a skeptical journal.)

    Instead, they mimicked science. They did what they thought scientists should do. They didn’t understand what science really entails, why it gets done the way it does, and so they did it wrong. If most of what we get of “science” is what we see on TV, how would they know? How does the public know it’s wrong?

    I like that you mentioned niches because this niche grabbed me. People in the reality-based community tend to brush off these paranormal topics as silly. They are to us but not to the millions of people who really believe this stuff. To this end, I started a new site that is designed to show the public (mainly skeptics) how prevalent these stories are in the media and provide at least a bit of skepticism readers might consider – http://doubtfulnews.com

    If you tell the public stories often enough, they believe there “must be something to it”. Sadly, we fail to speak out enough about what the SOMETHING truly is and how it’s dragging us down into the dumb.

  8. #8 rlquinn1980
    November 7, 2011

    I love how the mom in the news story thinks the choices for her son are either sports or ghost hunting. How closed minded can you get? Well, there’s always the hope that these boys will learn the trade behind the scenes and one day wise up (grow up?) and use what they’ve learned in a truly scientific way, and expose hucksters the way converted magicians do mentalists.

  9. #9 Cynical Pediatrician
    November 7, 2011

    Daniel J. Andrews: I could never figure out why a ghost would create an EMF in the first place. Who decided they could do that? Prior to equipment that could read an EMF, ghosts were busy creating cold drafts. Why? I feel I must be missing an obvious connection.

    I was wondering the same thing. Did anyone invoke EMFs before the movie “Ghostbusters?” (Note to budding parapsychologists: that was a comedy, not a documentary.)

  10. #10 Mrs. Woo
    November 7, 2011

    Sorry – I have had some strange experiences here and there and had a friend who had at least one. Just curious how you explain things that on the surface look unexplainable. One well-educated man I know(okay, it was a Ph.D. in Spanish literature, but he was a tenured, published professor) told me of a time when a heavy brass bird cage left the table it was on and crashed down the stairs when no one was upstairs to have thrown it. I really don’t believe a parrot could have done that on its own, and I don’t think he as pulling my leg, though I guess he could have been. He just didn’t seem the type, and was very earnest in the story.

    Do you just say “I don’t know, but it was obviously a natural occurrence.”?

    By the way – the “explanation” in paranormal circles is that the cold you feel when an apparation appears is because they take ambient energy and use it to be able to appear, which reduces the temperature around them.

    I don’t know if I believe or not. I do know that when Ghost Hunters originally debunked 90+% of the hauntings they investigated I liked them a lot better than the new “every place is haunted” that seems to happen now. I quit watching them before the end of the second season when it became obvious that they were no longer trying to debunk hauntings.

    I guess part of me wants to leave enough room to investigate things and see what is going on rather than assuming when people report something that seems unexplainable on the surface say, “Well obviously it is a lie or hoax because it can’t exist.”

  11. #11 Egon
    November 7, 2011

    I know there are probably too many logistical hurdles for it to be feasible, but I’d love to see a TV show where they take a group of these credulous nobs and stick them in a house that’s been rigged by special effects experts and magicians to ape the traditional ‘haunted house.’ When the ghostbusters come out and report that the building is definitely haunted, the experts can then explain how it was all a total setup. Or alternatively, take a couple different groups of these guys into the same house, one at a time, and tell one group it’s haunted and one group it’s not. When they come out and can’t agree, the uselessness of their supposed methods should be clear.

  12. #12 rob
    November 7, 2011

    “Back off man, i’m a scientist.”
    -Dr. Venkman

  13. #13 IVI
    November 7, 2011

    Did anyone invoke EMFs before the movie “Ghostbusters?”
    Very much so, there was (at least in the UK) a significant level of amateur paranormal interest from the late 1950s through to the early 1970s, and of course with the 60s hippy influence, UFOs, ley lines and teluric currents all became part of the mix. A whole range of electronica was knocked up in garden sheds and put to the cause of finding the ineffable – no doubt this was when tin foil hats first became a paranormalist’s essential possession.

    The 1950s interest was only a renaissance of the ghost hunting and paranormal obsessions that arose post 1914-18, a movement which involved otherwise scientifically minded people like Conan Doyle who themselves had been influenced by the nuttier side of pseudoscientific enquiry in the 19thC (Mesmer et al). There’s been some work on how these apparent ‘upsurges’ in obsession with the paranormal are linked to mass anxiety – the 1920s followed the horrors of WW1, 1950s was a time of the Cold War and fear of nuclear holocaust, the 1960s, was period of social disruption, etc. I’m not sure there’s any great validity in this social theory and there’s grounds to say the periodic reappearance of ‘paranormalism’ is just a matter of fashion with the usual generational revisitation of earlier obsessions and styles.

    I’m not sure I’d single out ‘ghost’ shows as being particularly egregious, given the background level of moronic entertainment which seems purpose designed to succour the dimmest and most unthinking perspectives a human can have on the universe that confronts us. Kids will always find ways to rot their brains and teeth – the real worry is that they may never develop adult tastes.

  14. #14 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 7, 2011

    Mrs. Woo

    Just curious how you explain things that on the surface look unexplainable.

    If you know how it happened, you explain it. If you don’t, you say “well, that certainly is an interesting story.” If the teller states an explanation that relies on ghosts or other mystical being, ask for better evidence for ghosts.
    Any attempt to offer an explanation months or years later when you don’t have the facts will merely lead to a series of explanations and denials (“your cat knocked the cage over” – “I have no cat”, “A truck drove by and the vibrations moved the cage” – “no way that could happen”, “clumsy underpants gnomes” – “I wasn’t missing any underpants”, etc.). Your speculation may well be right, but the other person has already rejected it.

  15. #15 Denice Walter
    November 7, 2011

    @ Mrs Woo:

    In brief- I have to leave: I offered my tale of Dave and his brother to illustrate that if you rely upon supernatural explanations and solutions you might fail to see and use more realistic, pragmatic ones: M could have hired an investigator to find Dave and then get him him the psychological and medical help he needed or at the very least get SB counselling himself.

    Psychic phenomena ( ghosts, ESP, etc) are really alternative or pseudo-psychology, i.e used as explanatory systems for those who never studied formally. A parallel exists: if you believe in woo you might delay ( or entirely forego) medical treatment; if you rely upon the secrets of the supernatural world you might botch up your life in the natural one.

  16. #16 Karl Withakay
    November 7, 2011

    Ghosts must be materialistic and naturalistic in nature and interact via the electromagnetic force to be able to register on equipment like EMF meters, photographs (both film and electronic), audio recordings, etc.

    Additionally, ghosts must also interact through the gravitational force to some extent to be able maintain their position on the Earth.

    The Earth rotates on its axis at a speed of about 465 m/s. While it rotates about its axis, the Earth orbits the sun at roughly 30 km/s. The sun and the entire solar system orbit the center of the Milky Way galaxy at around 220 km/s. Our galaxy moves in and with an expanding universe, and is influenced in that motion by various factors with a resultant velocity of about 370 km/s relative to the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation.

    If you weren’t bound to the Earth gravitationally, every second of time that passes would put you several hundred kilometers from the spot on the surface of the Earth you were located previously as the Earth traces its seemingly chaotic path through the universe.

  17. #17 JGC
    November 7, 2011

    Mrs. Woo @11

    I think you have to say “I don’t know, but there’s no identifiable reason to presume it was anything other than a natural occurrence”. Supernatural events have to be positively identified. after all. A simple admission “We can’t explain it” doesn’t argue in suport of “We must consider it could have been caused by magic”.

  18. #18 Mrs. Woo
    November 7, 2011

    Please realize none of these comments are disrespect or anything else, but why is it that anything science has no real explanations for (or treatments for, for that matter) ends up being mocked by the people who are so practical and scientific?

    People who experience phenomena that really doesn’t have a scientific answer at the moment are either charlatans or deluded fools. Women with interstitial cystitis (they didn’t really admit men could even have the disease until recently) were frigid and hysterical and had nothing wrong with them even though the worst cases had physical findings that were much different than regular bladders. Worse, any discomfort they insisted they suffered couldn’t be real because they were women. Urology students were warned to never, ever give an IC patient pain medication because “then you’ll never get rid of them.”

    Why does it appear to those of us on the outside looking in (please understand I vaccinate, argue with Mr. Woo regarding science-based medicine, the NWO and goodness knows what else; I’m a rational person and this is one of the reasons this all perplexes and fascinates me all at the same time) that if science can explain it they love to talk bout it and if they cannot explain it they tend to make fun of it, ridicule it or just dismiss it as imaginary?

  19. #19 Mrs. Woo
    November 7, 2011

    @Denice – I definitely agree a private investigator would have been a much better option and definitely more effective. I dislike people taken for rides by “psychics” as much as I dislike woo-meisters taking advantage of people with incurable or terminal illnesses. There’s nothing worse than preying on the desperation of others to make your living. It should be always criminal.

    I’m not insisting that ghosts and hauntings are real – I am saying that I find the idea fascinating. MOST hauntings are easily debunked, and many people who believe they have “felt something weird” are unwilling to admit that their own mind has played tricks on them. At the same time, I’m open to one day seeing something that I cannot explain and then investigating why without immediately assuming that it was faked. Definitely don’t mind proving it faked, just don’t want to start from any assumption, even the one that it couldn’t be real.

    For that matter – on the bird cage story – the other night hubby’s desk was vibrating on the floor (I was in another room) and I wondered what in the world he was doing in there. He said a few minutes later – “Wow did you feel that earthquake?” I had honestly not noticed anything where I was. It WAS an earthquake almost four hours away from us, and it shook his desk (very easy to hear/notice against a hard wood floor).

    If we had been the “haunt” type goodness knows what we would have had to do – sage smudging perhaps?

  20. #20 Anton P. Nym
    November 7, 2011

    @ Mrs. Woo (#17):

    Please realize none of these comments are disrespect or anything else, but why is it that anything science has no real explanations for (or treatments for, for that matter) ends up being mocked by the people who are so practical and scientific?

    It’s not that we’re mocking people seeing that which is not yet explainable… because (in most cases, I hope) we’re not.

    What I certainly call open-season on is the leap in logic that “no scientific explanation” = “ghosts” (or UFOs*, or witchcraft, or whatever). “Unexplained” means “unexplained” and nothing more. I mock the urge to fill in the gap with folklore or myth or superstition rather than admit to a gap in our understanding.

    — Steve

    * I believe in UFOs; I just believe that the “U” really does stand for “Unidentified” rather than “Unearthly”. I don’t believe in flying saucers or alien abductions, even though I find the phenomenae (particularly in the parallels between the experiences and the ecstatic experiences of members of mystic religious cults) intriguing and think that this may be fertile ground for exploration by psychologists.

  21. #21 podunkmo
    November 7, 2011

    New shows for sweeps week, Survior: Haunted Island followed by Dancing with the Apparitions. Oh, and, Haunted Idol, America’s got Paranormal, and Dr Oz’s Ambiant Energy cures.

    Really “ambiant energy”? What would that be?

  22. #22 palindrom
    November 7, 2011

    Anton @5:15 — Interesting that you should mention alien abductions. This website

    http://www.stopabductions.com

    is at one level hilariously funny, but on the other hand it is so sweetly earnest that I don’t think it can possibly be a parody. And once you realize how terrible it must be to live with these delusions, it’s not as funny.

  23. #23 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 7, 2011

    Mrs. Woo,

    I’d further argue there’s a big difference between “not explained” and “science has no real explanation”. Not explained means merely that there’s insufficient evidence to determine with certainty what the correct explanation is. “Science has no real explanation” suggests something exceeding current theory. For instance, I can’t explain my cat’s behavior; this does not mean that its behavior is inexplicable within the bounds of science. On the other hand, the observation that the universe was not only expanding but accelerating in its expansion was inexplicable by existing theory and to this day is only explained by postulated “dark energy”, which nobody has observed directly.

    I’ve certainly heard ghost stories that, if they were true and if they were observed exactly and reported exactly as observed and if there was no trickery involved, science would not have a good answer for. However, there’s a lot of evidence that suggests it’s more likely that the observations were faulty, the interpretation was faulty, or that there was some form of deceit.

  24. #24 alison
    November 7, 2011

    Mrs Woo: People who experience phenomena that really doesn’t have a scientific answer at the moment are either charlatans or deluded fools.
    I’d hesitate to classify all people were all one or the other :-) OK, people who claim to experience (or to channel) such phenomena for personal gain – them, I’d call charlatans. But saying you’ve experienced something strange doesn’t make you a deluded fool, it just means you’ve experience something strange. Your birdcage story is a case in point :-)

  25. #25 Mrs. Woo
    November 7, 2011

    @Alison – I wouldn’t classify anyone as one way or another – human beings do have this terrible urge to classify everything and categorize it that often leaves us unaware of what we’ve missed by being so quick to put something in its little “box.”

    Yes, I actually have often puzzled over the bird cage story, and over my own strange happenings. One I just shrugged off as carelessness, though it was odd. In the same house later the television would come on at two o’clock every morning (one of those old-fashioned manual sets – this one you had to pull out on the volume knob to turn it on). I was a little confused how it would pop out on its own because it was a bit of an effort to pull out and not an easy switch. When I got tired of having my television turn itself on every night at the same time I finally unplugged it before I would go to bed. That solved the problem and I have always thought to myself “either that was a very lazy ghost or a very strange electronic glitch” and shrugged it off.

    I’m relieved to hear that there isn’t an instant dismissal of things outside of common experience, just a dismissal of leaping to conclusions. That is the way I like to be – the rare difficult to debunk (or explain away – the television I can kind of explain away) things are something I would love to one day better understand.

    @Mephistopholes O’Brien – I thought my cats were difficult to comprehend until I met my house chicken. Okay, actually she’s not much different to understand in basic behavior than any of my other house pets, it’s just that I never expected chickens to be jealous (she will beat up my one cat if he gets too close to me) or prefer humans to other chickens. I still think long and hard about that.

    I wonder how you encourage a teenager who is interested in ghost hunting to further investigate strange things they hear about without getting carried away with their imaginations.

  26. #26 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    November 7, 2011

    Mrs. Woo – just so you know, “House Chicken” would be great name for a band.

  27. #27 DLC
    November 8, 2011

    One thing I’ve noticed about all those ghost-hunter shows: they always have lots of spooky whispered voices, crappy low-light camera footage that always misses the “ghosts” but manages to capture lens reflections, dust motes or lighting anomalies. There’s never anything more than someone feeling vaguely haunted, or some “psychic” feeling a “presence” and babbling some vague mish-mash of maybe-history about the place. Phoey. give me a good skeptical “ghost debunking” show instead. They could go through the same places the psychics, mediums and credulous ones go through.

  28. #28 adelady
    November 8, 2011

    Funnily enough, this topic came up in family conversation. My mother grew up in the 1930-40s, very conservative, army officer family, church twice on Sundays routine.

    But ouija boards? They were a bit of fun. In those days of no television and lights out at 9pm, it was just another board game. It only came up because a fundie family member started talking about inviting trouble from the ‘dark’ side by allowing such nonsense. Mum pooh-poohed it vigorously.

    Come to think of it, if her generation had gone for this nonsense in a big way, there’d have been a bit of board kerfuffle finding out about armed services people in action or POW camps or MIA during WW2. It never occurred to them.

  29. #29 Mrs. Woo
    November 8, 2011

    Mephistopheles O’Brien – Yes! It would!

    My house chicken has her own Facebook page and more friends that my teen-aged son. People have been begging me to do a book about her.

    Strangely, she was never my favorite. It was her needs that created this relationship and never my intention to bring a barnyard animal into the house. At the same time, when it happened I reasoned that there are people who will spend several hundred dollars (or more) to move a parrot or cockatoo into the house with them. If anything I’m getting bird companionship without the inflated cost.

  30. #30 Ledasmom
    November 8, 2011

    I’m trying to figure out how one tells a female whistle from a male whistle, and also why that one kid is labeled as “2nd grade reading level” in the second video.
    In other news, boys having a sleepover act exactly like girls having a sleepover. I expected a game of Truth or Dare to break out at any minute.
    In other other news, old houses make weird noises.

  31. #31 Mandy
    November 8, 2011

    Fantastic post I found it very good, so keep at.

  32. #32 LW
    November 8, 2011

    “Fantastic post I found it very good, so keep at.”

    if I were setting up a bot to spam every post on a website, I’d at least try to use proper punctuation and complete sentences. People have no pride in their work anymore.

  33. #33 Alareth
    November 8, 2011

    When I was working in the retail electronics field there was a teenage kid that came into my store every so often who claim to have his own paranormal research group. He would ask if we had any K-II emf meters because that is what the Ghost Hunters use.

    Every time I’d explain to him that the K-II was prone to inaccurate and sporadic readings (precisely why TAPS uses them) and would recommend something more precise.

    He would then thank me and say he’ll keep looking.

  34. #34 Roadstergal
    November 8, 2011

    In other other news, old houses make weird noises.

    Our house is circa 1950 (not all that old in the grand scheme of things) and it makes some crazy fecking noises when it settles at night.

    The other night, I thought I heard voices murmuring in the middle of the night. My husband heard them, too. I got up and investigated, and it turns out the water in the fish tank had gotten a little low, and the sound of the water from the filter sounded like conversation from a few rooms away.

    We’re pattern-seeking animals, and it’s easy to say that some strange, inexplicable event happened when you don’t take a moment to look more carefully at what’s going on.

  35. #35 Scott Luetticke
    November 8, 2011

    I see this kind of reality TV in much the same fashion that I see The Kardashians or The Real Housewives shows… entertainment value. It depends on what floats your boat. Our kids are unhealthy and more and more are type II diabetics because they are watching far too much TV. These shows feed into the idea that MY life is not exciting enough and therefore I will SIT and watch YOUR life which is far more interesting than my own. It is the age of VOYEURISM. These kids are just feeding into the frenzy that is reality or really UNreality. Remember, we all have the control to just TURN it OFF.

  36. #36 sly
    November 9, 2011

    They need to start using mouse in their hair like the drama queen on Ghost Adventures.+

  37. #37 eripere
    November 9, 2011

    My point here is, tv is a business to make money, it’s entertaiment, even news are …a means to make money. Who think he is learning something from the tv, is wrong. The actual videos of this kids in youtube, …is just youtube, is all about getting attention, subscribers, views, that’s all.
    That what they are doing is not strictly cientific? so what? I think most of the kids, or at least to many of them find a lot worst things for entertaiment.

  38. #38 Laura
    November 9, 2011

    Orac,
    You’re totally right about this, of course. TV is full of paranormal stuff. It’s not just the actual storyline of the shows, it’s all the special effects. And people watch it for hours every day!
    I grew up without TV, that is one actually good thing my father did for us. It helped us grow up as thinking people.
    Also movies and novels have a lot of paranormal in them. It’s just more fun than skepticism! I LOVE Stephen King novels, and I seem to remember you mentioning “The Stand” admiringly in one blog post. That novel has lots of magic in it.
    Also spending too much time online is bad for your mind. I struggled with online addiction for a long time. Eventually I found an answer – I strictly limit my online time at home, with a stopwatch gadget – I made a customized gadget I can live with. Then I let myself surf if I really want or need to, in public wi-fi places. That works for me; what works is a personal matter.
    I have another theory about why people’s minds become unhinged in modern society. That’s that people use a lot of high technology that they don’t understand. For them, it’s a kind of magic. In that way also, people get used to not using rational thought.
    Basic mechanical things like fixing a bicycle or doing carpentry do train people to think. But most people don’t do those things. The need for rational understanding is becoming less in some ways.
    People think technology is magic! Often, in debates over our energy future, I find people think you can just pour money into “developing technology” and that will fix any problem. For example, there’s a basic limit on the efficiency of solar panels that comes from the second law of thermodynamics – but people seem to think you can pour money into solar energy and that will fix our energy future, without interference from laws of physics or quantitative constraints. People don’t think quantitative constraints matter, they think it’s enough to come out with some vague sentiment.
    But then, more people are literate these days than they used to be, and technology does make demands on your understanding sometimes – like using a PC requires some rationality.

  39. #39 Laura
    November 10, 2011

    Orac,
    You’re totally right about this, of course. TV is full of paranormal stuff. It’s not just the actual storyline of the shows, it’s all the special effects. And people watch it for hours every day!
    I grew up without TV, that is one actually good thing my father did for us. It helped us grow up as thinking people.
    Also movies and novels have a lot of paranormal in them. It’s just more fun than skepticism! I LOVE Stephen King novels, and I seem to remember you mentioning “The Stand” admiringly in one blog post. That novel has lots of magic in it.
    Also spending too much time online is bad for your mind. Just like TV, it’s full of attractive, addictive visuals, and quite shallow.
    I have another theory about why people’s minds become unhinged in modern society. That’s that people use a lot of high technology that they don’t understand. For them, it’s a kind of magic. In that way also, people get used to not using rational thought.
    Basic mechanical things like fixing a bicycle or doing carpentry do train people to think. But most people don’t do those things. The need for rational understanding is becoming less in some ways.
    People think technology is magic, that all you have to do to solve some problem is to throw money into “developing technology”, that technology isn’t limited by quantitative constraints or the laws of physics. For example, there’s a basic limit on the efficiency of solar panels that comes from the second law of thermodynamics. But you never hear such things mentioned; people think they’re justified just by coming out with some vague sentiment that feels right to them, like “if we just develop renewable energy, that’ll solve our energy problems. “
    But then, more people are literate these days than they used to be, and technology does make demands on your understanding sometimes – like using a PC requires some rationality.

  40. #40 Sharon Hill
    November 10, 2011

    @Scott L It’s not just entertainment. There are THOUSANDS of amateur paranormal investigation groups worldwide. This is more like “serious leisure” (Stebbins) where the activity is part of how people define themselves. I’m not sure nonbelievers can understand how seriously these individuals take this activity unless you see it firsthand. They believe the paranormal activity is genuine and they believe what they are doing is science.

  41. #41 dental care charlotte
    November 10, 2011

    I don’t believe in it at all!

    The fact that it presents a story of kids being influenced by paranormal beliefs as a good thing chokes me a little bit… I don’t think that this is a good thing for gullible kids.

  42. #42 Schenck
    November 12, 2011

    Instead of Mr. Wizard, we have “Ghost Hunters” on TV. Instead of science clubs, we have paranormal investigators.

  43. #43 Lawrence
    November 12, 2011

    I really miss Mr. Wizard….Sid the Science Kid is not an adequate substitute.

  44. #44 Michael Menkin
    November 13, 2011

    There is nothing funny abut alien abductions. The aliens hurt people who wear thought screen helmets and resist them.

    Stopabductions.com is a real website. I do make thought screen helmets and send them all over the world for free. The site is a so-it-yourself nonprofit site with instructions for making a thought screen helmet. There is nothing for sale on the site. All of the information on the site is accurate. The case histories are authentic and so are the testimonials. The photos of me making thought screen helmets are authentic. They were taken by my wife and by brother-in-law. I believe the photo of the alien is authentic and I reference 14 books to back up my claim. I have another site, aliens and children which has drawings of children’s abduction experiences. Also, stopabductions.com was translated into Italian and Portuguese for free by thankful researchers.

    All of the information in the links section is authentic. I am one of the original writers of NASA tech briefs. I did work for Boeing several times. One of my jobs was to edit the proposal for the space station in the mid 1980’s. I also worked on the Boeing 787 and 747-8 projects recently and now work for the FAA where I am a technical writer. I am an active member of the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi. I am also a member of the Nationa Air Traffic Controller’s Association. The site is written for people who are abducted by aliens from space, that is its intended audience. The industrial sewing machine on the site really cost me $1,600. I bought it from Sewing Machine Service in Renton, WA.

    I have been making thought screen helmets lined with 8 sheets of .006″ velostat for twelve years. I send them to abductees all over the world for free. I recently sent a thought screen helmet to a woman in Perth, Australia. I now use an industrial sewing machine to make the helmets durable. The sewing machine cost me $1,600. Each roll of velostat costs $200 and the leather hats about $20. I would not work has hard as I do unless I was convinced that the helmet works.

    I have some abductees who have worn thought screen helmets 24/7 for over ten years, so they are convinced that the helmet works.

    The case history section of stopabductions.com reports real cases of people who have worn thought screen helmets. I talk with several abductees wearing the helmet at least every week.

    What really convinces me that the helmet works is the way that the aliens react to it. Several people who forgot to wear their helmets were beaten in anger by alien-human hybrids. The aliens also harass the people who wear the helmet. I have one case where a 5 year old girl was harassed so severely by aliens that she and her mother stopped wearing the helmets. The mother said, “clearly, the aliens do not like the helmet.”

    I have another case where the aliens communicated to an abductee that they would kill her dog if she kept wearing the helmet. They killed two of her dogs in a row because she kept wearing the helmet. The first dog was killed because its spinal cord was cut internally and the vet could not figure out how that could happen. The second dog vomited blood profusely from an internal injury. The aliens finally did get the abductee to stop wearing the helmet.

    Eventually I hope to get real proof of alien abductions by making and sending thought screen helmets. I do it with my own money and on my own time. I also work full time.

    Alien abductions are very serious business. The aliens hurt people both physically and mentally. Please do your homework and read some information and talk to real abductees before making comments.

    If you are going to make a comment and you are serious, then you must state your real name so you can be contacted. I state my real name and the photo is a recent photo of me. I also answer all emails.

    For additional information on the thought screen helmet, also see aliensandchildren.org. The website on the thought screen helmet is also in Portuguese and Italian. The sites were translated for free by grateful researchers and abductees. All sites are posted with my own money.
    Source(s):

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