Are you comfortable labeling something as “unexplained”?

As many of you know, I have schizoaffective disorder which comes with both mood and psychotic symptoms. I have been on medication for many years and I’m in a good place.

Prior to medication, I had hallucinations that I thought were spirits or ghosts. Once I started taking anti-psychotics, the ghosts went away and I knew they were just symptoms of my mental illness – and better yet, symptoms that could be treated. That came as a relief since I was often frightened by them.

Sometimes friends and family are a little leery of my diagnosis since they, too, have experienced “ghosts”. My “ghosts” came with an explanation but theirs didn’t. It’s pretty obvious that I have a mental illness, but I don’t think that’s true for all of my friends and family. What exactly are they experiencing?

I would never discredit someone’s personal account. Something was obviously real to them

I consider ghosts as “unexplained”. I don’t think there are dead people haunting us, but I do think there is something to it and one day science will catch up and figure out what that something is.

I also see aliens as unexplained.

Do you see things as unexplained or do you dismiss them and say they’re not real? I’m really curious to see how you guys feel about this.


  1. Bruce says

    Many unexplained “UFO sightings” might turn out to have been dirt on the camera lens etc.
    To be “unexplained” is not a conclusion, but just a category for things without a conclusion yet.
    It is rational to admit that one does not yet know everything about everything, and it would be perverse to claim one did know it all.
    Those who admit not knowing some things give themselves credibility, while trust must be limited in anyone who implies they know all the answers already.
    Professional scientists are always careful to write their papers so as to leave open the possibility of further items being not yet known. A child might assume that “scientists know everything,” but any real scientist would cringe to hear that.
    Denying ghosts and UFOs is not childish, but rather it is the more scientific and rational approach, to be satisfied with saying some things indeed are not yet explained.

  2. Katydid says

    I think the human brain can draw incorrect conclusions about things–that happens all the time (think of optical illusions, for example).

    I’m comfortable with the category of “not explained” for things that can’t get be explained.

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    “Unexplained” – happens all the time; much better than leaping to unreliable conclusions.

    “Unexplainable” – if such things exist, we owe that to limitations of our own comprehension, not to eldritch eeriness.

  4. Katydid says

    Agreed, @3. “We don’t (yet) know” is much better than “nobody can ever know because it’s supernatural”.

    Funny example: a couple of weeks ago, when it was still cold out, visiting relatives left my back door open and I ended up with a snake in my kitchen–probably because the kitchen was warm from baking. I did not know how to get a snake out of my kitchen. I figured it out (a broom to shove the snake out the open door).

    Afterward, my spouse insisted I got it out via “witchcraft!” LOL. Nope, it’s a learning process and I figured it out.

    So much in life is being willing to figure out how to go from not-knowing to knowing.

  5. brucegee1962 says

    I’m willing to attribute most ghost and alien sightings to a rare and poorly-understood phenomena in which the part of the brain that is normally responsible for creating dream imagery starts creating images and sending them to the conscious, awake part of the brain. For some people, like you, it might happen a lot; others might only have it happen once in a lifetime. Either way it would probaby be terrifying.
    That doesn’t explain situations where multiple people all see the same phenomenon, but those seem to be pretty rare.

  6. sonofrojblake says

    Perfectly comfortable with “unexplained” as a label. Entirely NOT comfortable with “unexplained” as an explanation. As in “ooh, unexplained… must be aliens/ghosts/Bigfoot”.

    I’ve seen a UFO. On a clear, sunny afternoon with scattered cumulus cloud, I saw four objects in the sky. They formed a rhombus, two equilateral triangles. They were entirely motionless in the sky for the minute or two they were visible. They were bright, white dots with no visible features (no wings, tailplanes etc. such as you’d see on an airliner even at cruising altitude). Two of them gradually became fainter as I watched. The other two remained as bright as when I first saw them. Three other adults were with me and saw exactly the same thing. They did not move across the sky, but maintained their relative positions for the full two minutes or so. Eventually they were obscured by cloud. “Weather balloon” works for me as an explanation, except, I don’t understand why four would fly in formation, or how this could be achieved. I emphatically believe them to be of terrestrial origin, since that’s most likely. I’d love to know for sure what they were.

    The most inexplicable thing that has ever happened to me goes like this: on the way back from a weekend surfing in Devon in the mid 90s, I nearly crashed my car on the motorway due to tiredness. I pulled over at the next service station (Gordano, near Bristol). I went into the shop with my girlfriend, picked up a Red Bull and browsed for snacks. She and I were the only people in the shop apart from the woman behind the counter. As I stood looking at the crisps, an object hit me full in the face. I reacted fast enough to catch it as it fell after hitting me. It was some crumpled up paper. Specifically, it was four twenty-pound notes, scrunched up into a ball. I looked around. I looked for hidden cameras. I looked for other people – pranksters. I saw the woman behind the counter, my girlfriend, and nobody else. I showed my gf the money and told her how I got it. We agreed it was weird, paid for our food and drink and left the shop. Nobody stopped us. Nobody said “hang on, that’s my eighty quid”. I spent the cash later – it was entirely legit. To this day I’m torn between going back to that services because thin air there throws money at me, and avoiding the place like the plague because there’s an invisible demon there and I owe him 80 quid plus interest. I have literally no idea what happened, and all I can be sure of is I walked out of that shop with £80 that wasn’t mine but I have absolutely no idea how it came to hit me in the face so couldn’t have handed it back if I’d wanted to. “Unexplained” pretty much covers it and nobody I’ve ever told the story to – and I’ve told this story a LOT – has ever come up with anything remotely believable. Have at it, please. I’d love to know what happened there.

  7. blf says

    Absolutely† no problems with “unexplained”: Partly due to my education and personal biases, but also largely due to my professional work, where I frequently have to debug something, i.e., decipher the root cause of incorrect, unanticipated, surprising or suspicious behaviour. Whilst you don’t always start from “no idea” (or “unexplained”), enough of the time you do. From whereever you start, it’s then a matter of assembling clues, testing hypothesises, occasionally having insights (often from experience or having observed similar-ish behaviour in the past), with a dose of luck and some long lunches to think things over.

    When you have been unable to work something out, it remains “unexplained”, and does not become “unexplainable” (or “inexplicable”).

      † Which does not mean “not annoyed” when something is “unexplained”. I can get very annoyed!

  8. mathman85 says

    There are plenty of things for which we collectively currently have no explanation. There are even more things for which I personally have no explanation. I’m comfortable admitting that. Indeed, to deny that would prevent even the possibility of us learning more. Often, however, problems ensue when someone goes from “I don’t know” to “Therefore, [insert preferred supernatural explanation here] must be the answer”, which is an argument from incredulity. From “I don’t know”, one cannot conclude anything substantive about what the actual explanation or explanations is or are. It behooves us, therefore, to follow up the “I don’t know” with something along the lines of “Let’s see if we can find out”.


    I like Dick Cheney’s logical quadrants, where the fourth quadrant is unknown unknowns – stuff you don’t even know you don’t know. Even the existence of gods can fit in this corner.

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