I was a bit intrigued, and perplexed, by author Joe Nickell’s perspective on how to approach the matter of the paranormal. An author, blogger, and journalist in The Blog on Huffington Post located in the Books section, titled 9 Most Haunted Places (Photos) (article link below), Nickell’s derails causing catastrophic insult. In plain English, his article rubbed me the wrong way! He says, “In investigating ghosts we have a decision to make: Do we start with a belief, then seek to find justification for it? Or do we examine real cases with the intent of solving them, seeking the best evidence and letting it lead us to an answer that we then believe on the evidence? I have chosen the latter path—‘the one less traveled by’.”
His supposition, not unlike the perspective of many ill-informed so-called experts, makes many assumptions and contradicts itself. First, he says, “In investigating ghosts we have a decision to make,” this statement would assume there are indeed – ghosts. The author then asks his audience, “Do we start with a belief, then seek to find justification for it? Or do we examine real cases with the intent of solving them, seeking the best evidence and letting it lead us to an answer that we then believe on the evidence?”
Every person goes into every situation with his or her set of pre-ordained beliefs, it is human nature and unavoidable. To say you enter any situation void of your belief system is to say you have lived an entire life in seclusion, never to have had interaction with another human, education, media, religious institution, spirituality, or life itself.
Then the author says we should “examine real cases with the intent of solving them”, which is the option the author opts for in his article. Well, if a case is predetermined to be a real case it must have been pre-investigated to conclude it in fact is a real case. The evidence is where everyone, bar none, trips up, every investigator and skeptic has issues with evidence, hence, the proof is in the pudding. Evidence has been the catalyst of every discrepancy in paranormal investigations. Unfortunately, many times evidence becomes skewed by the investigators personal bias – beliefs.
As you can see, there are many issues with Joe Nickell’s article. My experience has been to enter an investigation, or any situation, as informed as possible. Allow your mind to accept all possibilities as theories, then one by one look for the evidence supporting the theory and the evidence against the theory; debunking the hoaxes and the influences of humanity, science and nature. When employing this method, more often than not, the truth will surface. Those times when it does not surface and your final determination is unexplainable or indeterminable, and you have exhausted all efforts, you go back to the drawing board or conclude – inconclusive.
There are those cases where inconclusive is the only answer; hence, paranormal or supernatural. To say there is room for nothing but black or white, evidence for or against, would conclude logic and reason are the only factors to concern oneself with. I say, as it pertains to the paranormal and the supernatural, if you are looking for evidence it is imperative to think outside of the box. If you back yourself into the corner of thinking, I will consider those cases, which are valid real cases that have been validated in some way as being real, you begin with a presupposition the case has been previously proven – in which case, why do you investigate a case, which has been previously proven!
I have no personal emotional attachment to author Joe Nickell. However, when an author, which I happen to belong to this elite group of wordsmiths, publishes an opinionated article based on flawed philosophy regarding a matter I am passionate about, I feel an obligation to acknowledge the article and the author and offer a rebuttal. Do I always get it right? No. I could only hope other authors and respectful readers would straighten me out as I do care how I am perceived, both personally and professionally.
In a twist of irony, Joe Nickell utilizes this blog, which is endorsed as being dedicated to 9 Most Haunted Places (Photos), which the article itself clearly make no mention, other than the introduction to the nine photos, of any “haunted places”. Nickell uses the blog platform to endorse his book titled The Science of Ghosts: Searching for Spirits of the Dead. On the Amazon link, he describes his work in a few short sentences, concluding, “Are ghosts real? Are there truly haunted places, only haunted people, or both? And how can we know? Taking neither a credulous nor a dismissive approach, this first-of-its-kind book solves those perplexing mysteries and more—even answering the question of why we care so very much.”
Well, Mr. Nickell, I hate being the bearer of discomforting news, but many authors throughout history have attempted to solve the so-called “mysteries” of ghosts, haunted places, and haunted people, including yours truly. Thus, your book is not the “first-of-its-kind”. To express such self-absorbed disingenuous unreasonable implausibility and proclaim oneself as an author to have discovered a unique “first-of-its-kind” approach is an insult and a discredit to authors everywhere.
For us less lofty authors who know their place and respect the works of their peers, and that of past authors, may we continue to present unbiased perspectives filtered through a notion of gratitude and common sense. For other authors who remain stuck in a world of contradictions and self-absorbed “first-of-its-kind” approaches, may you one day know what it is like to view your work through the eyes of the real world!
This has been a… View From My Loft
Huff Post article:
By the way, I attempted to do the righteous thing and post a comment on author Joe Nickell’s blog regarding this response to his article. My response made it to the abyss of “pending confirmation” comments. I will check back periodically to see if he in fact allows my response.
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