What are your thoughts on the paranormal?

Last September I wrote a post about the paranormal, and to my surprise, it still gets views almost every day. I thought maybe I should explore the topic more since there seems to be an interest.

Having struggled with psychosis, this can be a bit of a sensitive topic for me. I thought my hallucinations were spirits and ghosts. It was absolutely terrifying – it really shook me to the core. Even though I’ve been on meds for years I still sometimes fear they will return. I just have to remind myself that they are symptoms of my mental illness – nothing more.

What’s strange is that recently my fear has turned into fascination, and my husband and I have watched just about every paranormal show on Prime Video. 

Personally, I don’t believe in ghosts or spirits but I do think there is something there – something unexplained. I watch paranormal shows hoping they’ll find an explanation. I think all the equipment and techniques they use in their investigations are really interesting.

My husband believes in residual energy and that maybe that’s an explanation for hauntings. It makes sense but I definitely want to see some evidence.

I know you don’t necessarily have to be mentally ill to hallucinate. Could this be an explanation?

When someone says they believe in ghosts, what do you think that means? I’m not going to call everyone who says they have paranormal experience a liar – I do think there’s something there just maybe not what people think. 

Do you have any theories? Do you have any ideas on how it can be further investigated? Do you think the investigations are authentic or just good TV? Have you had a paranormal experience? I would love to hear your thoughts!

I think it’s pretty amazing that I’ve come full circle – something I fear is now my fascination. Just a few years ago I wouldn’t even watch shows on the paranormal. Now I want an explanation. 


  1. Katydid says

    I think fear/fascination are two sides of a coin. I had a child who was terrified of zombies back in the day when zombies were popular, then became absolutely fascinated by them. P.S. Zombies aren’t real, in case that needs to be said.

    I’m entertained by a good paranormal story, but I don’t believe in ghosts, etc. I think there are things we don’t yet understand that are considered to be paranormal, such as near-death experiences where people report seeing a bright light (an artifact of the brain shutting down). Or like your seeing hallucinations of The Music Man as part of your brain function.

    Have you heard of synesthesia? That’s where the brain misinterprets signals, so people “hear” colors or smell bananas when they see the number 6, etc. etc.

  2. says

    While I think some of it is hallucination, I think some of it is also us just filling in gaps in patterns we see, combined with the way memories are a distorted re-simulation of events, rather than a record.

    Combine that with pre-existing beliefs, various states of mind, intoxication, etc., and I think that about covers things.

    I’ve had “paranormal experiences”, but it was during a period in which I had incredibly vivid dreams, some of which were hard to be sure were dreams. I was quite convinced the house where I lived in Medford was haunted or something, and when we moved, my nightmares largely stopped. I’ve also had one dream that broke the fourth wall enough I turned it into a nightmare chapter in my first novel 😛

    On supernatural investigation shows, I tend to find them more irritating than entertaining. That said, I do very much love this review of “The Worst Ghost Hunting Show Ever”


  3. says

    I know someone who often tells the story of her father appearing to her in her apartment to inform her that he’d just died (in a hospital). I don’t believe in ghosts or any other “supernatural” phenomena or entities, but this alleged event was certainly real to her at that time. Offhand, I’m guessing it’s a retroactively edited memory of the time she found out her father had died (she’d been very close to her father, much more so than to her mother, who did not appear to her on the day of her death). But again, that’s still a real manifestation of a very emotional reaction to her father’s death.

    So I think we can generally dismiss allegations of supernatural events, while still allowing that something significant happened to the persons experiencing those events.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    Pareidolia is real. Sleep paralysis is real. The sense of presence in reaction to infrasound is real. Hallucinations brought on by mental illness or other disturbances to brain chemistry are real.

    The interpretations we place on these phenomena? Not so much.

    I put these things in much the same category as UFOs. People are definitely seeing something, and/or having experiences of encounters. It’s just that they see Venus and say “spaceship”, experience sleep paralysis and say “abduction”, or whatever.

    I wanted, very hard, to believe in this stuff when I was about 12, and pop culture supported that with all sorts of wacky shows and books and magazines. But every single bit of actual evidence says no.

  5. says

    Speaking of bad ghost-hunting shows, I remember hearing about a series where the crew would come to a house where “supernatural” or “haunting” events had been reported, and then go about finding mundane material explanations for all the phenomena reported. Never saw the show myself, just going by the description I’d heard (And no, I don’t remember where). The episode described to me included reports of the parents being woken by something hitting the food of their bed, and finding nothing and no one there that could have done it.

    So after all the other phenomena were dealt with (creepy noises caused by old plumbing when someone turned on a particular faucet on the other side of the house, that sort of thing), they were left with the scary bed-knocking. So they set up a video camera to record the bedroom area, and found it was the husband having some sort of spasms in his sleep and hitting the foot of the bed with his own foot. So it seems this show (as described to me at least) provided some serious public services, first by debunking all the scary haunting phenomena, then by giving pointers about the residents’ REAL problems (hubby vowed to find a sleep-therapist), then by saving them from worse-than-useless con artistry, and finally by tamping down any public hysteria about ghosts, demons, etc. Can anyone tell me if that show is still on?

  6. Katydid says

    @Raging Bee: your friend might have been dreaming about her father (a natural thing if he was in the hospital) and upon hearing he’d died, believed he’d come back to tell her he had died. Memories are really malleable, which is why there are so many problems with eye witnesses to crime.

    Also, I have no idea what show that might have been. I’m guessing MythBusters or Adam Ruins Everything?

    The Scooby Doo Mysteries cartoons from the 1960s – 1970s were really good at setting up seemingly-supernatural events and showing they were the work of regular humans–usually a bad guy with an agenda.

  7. Jerome says

    My thoughts on the paranormal are similar to that of magic and the occult: in the situation that it really does exist, you will not be finding the real stuff at Barnes & Noble or at the local library—that information would be too powerful to give up freely. Similarly, a local psychic or ghost hunting show is bound to be nonsense. Maybe the paranormal is real, where the universe is a Lovecraftian nightmare where we have barely scratched the surface of an infinitely complex and terrible reality of incomprehensible madness and terror… but I doubt any real proof of powerful forces from other realms will be advertised openly on TLC, y’know?

    Which is all to say, even if it was real, it is then already guaranteed that 99.9999% of all sightings are junk, rendering it, unfortunately, a bit boring and inaccessible (at best). Beyond that analysis, you can apply as much or as little skepticism as your taste prefers on the remaining 0.0001%, no judgement either way.

  8. antaresrichard says

    Just trying follow the forces that govern the natural world, let alone the preternatural, seem sufficient focus for this little life of mine. I mean, what law governs ghosts? Who’s right about reincarnation? Chakras conform to which concise canon? The physics of phantasms would be…? Angel act and are because…?
    I not trying to be superior or smug, I honestly just don’t have the time to wade through the wild, grab bag that is, for me, what the paranormal seems. I’ve got enough on my plate, so the spirits can sort themselves.

  9. says

    …in the situation that it really does exist, you will not be finding the real stuff at Barnes & Noble or at the local library—that information would be too powerful to give up freely.

    I find that line of reasoning highly suspect. If such powerful information really existed, whoever possessed it would have used it to achieve some pretty significant results — curing a plague, extending a powerful person’s lifetime, wiping out an enemy faction, interest-group or ethnic group, divining some important information that no one else had any means to obtain, even winning a war they shouldn’t otherwise have won. And sooner or later the enemies of these magicians would keep on spying and researching and gathering information until they found out how to counter that power. No new invention, technology or scientific knowledge ever stays hidden for more than a generation; so why would anyone expect magical or supernatural knowledge to stay secret?

    Case in point: atomic weapons. The Nazis couldn’t keep their efforts secret from the Allies, and the US and UK couldn’t keep the USSR from finding out how to do what we’d done. And that’s an enterprise requiring very sophisticated machinery and very hard-to-find substances. Would the tools and substances needed for, say, necromancy be harder to obtain than U-235?

  10. says

    So far, everything that has appeared mysterious has turned out to have an utterly banal explanation. Two people who have been apart for a long time suddenly thinking of each other at the same time, each dialling the other’s number simultaneously and finding the line busy sounds spooky, right? But what if they both had their radios tuned to the same station, and heard the same song that triggered a memory for both of them of a time when they were together; which set in motion a train of thought leading to “I haven’t spoken to X in awhile; I wonder how they are doing” ? Now think of how many possible combinations of people there are in similar situations, and it’s not even surprising anymore.

    And if they do find anything previously unknown to science, it will only end up being used for something utterly mundane and banal once it is understood better. For instance, a method for causing objects physically to change place without touching them directly will most probably just be used for making deliveries.

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