What is Behind the Beyond?
Let’s take a break, if we may, from trampling through decaying mansions in search of restless spirits, rotting swamps filled with things not quite dead, yet not really alive, graveyards that give one the heebie -jeebies even in broad daylight and morbid mountain hollows where ancient curses still have power to bewitch the unwary passerby, and reflect on the state of the OTHER SIDE in this day and age.
First, while I firmly believe there are many paranormal phenomena which science cannot explain, and I continue to collect accounts of uncanny events and weird doings, I have begun to believe that our collective quest to explore THE UNEXPLAINED may have gone a bit too far. Or rather, that the innate human curiosity to seek answers to the mysteries of the universe that motivates most of us, has been hijacked by many who are only interested in exploiting what has gone from an esoteric endeavor to become a popular pastime and cash in on it by any means possible.
The explosion in “professional” ghost hunting in particular I find a bit much. There are all manner of self-anointed experts these days who conduct very expensive classes in ghost-hunting, “cleansing” or various and sundry other paranormal practices. It is all well and good to go to sites that have a reputation for being haunted and investigate them for yourself or even to help calm folk uncomfortable with the possibility that they are not alone in the old home.
But bringing along truckloads of seemingly high-tech paraphernalia and putting on airs of being “scientific” is not any more valid qualitatively than someone who investigates a site by their “gut feeling.” Sometimes one can divine the truth by what seems to be an entirely subjective and undocumented experience. And one person’s authentic paranormal experience may not be able to be duplicated no matter how many tri-quarter readings you take.
As Shakespeare phrased it, “by the prickling of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.”
Please don’t put me in the category of the professional debunkers who, while pretending to investigate paranormal incidents objectively in reality approach every occurrence with the same closed mind, and simply seek to validate their predetermined opinions and present it as “proof” that it is all bunkum. I have read some ghost hunting groups’ accounts that I personally find quite impressive; but I also know that insofar as the scientific community goes, their evidence will not convince any academic investigator.
The flurry of paranormal Cable TV shows in particular yank my chain. Some, admittedly, are worse than others; a bunch of idiots running around an abandoned sanitarium with flashlights attached to their faces and scaring themselves is not only a waste of time, it’s just plain silly.
Likewise some dude on tv daring a spirit to “come out come out wherever you are” is an exercise in the moronic. Moreover, if they are treading on territory where they are dealing, not with the deceased, but with the demonic, they may even stir up something they are unprepared to handle. Genuine cases of demonic possession are very, very rare–fortunately–but they do exist and, as the saying goes, don’t go kicking a nest of hornets unless you want to get stung.
The latest scam is some of these celebrity ghost-busters offering–for money–certification to people as ghost hunters. Of course, if any of these media mediums read this criticism, I doubt they will be much dismayed–they are crying all the way to the bank as I speak.
Of course, charlatans exploiting a popular movement relating to the paranormal is nothing new. In my book, The Paranormal Presidency, I document the birth of Spiritualism and the story of its suppressed relationship with President Abraham Lincoln.
In the book I tried to maintain a certain objectivity about this subject. The truth is that, at that time and since, there have been many sincere people involved in Spiritualism, psychics, medium-ship, and also those involved in partaking in seances. In some instances these earnest explorers of the beyond may even have had genuine psychic experiences.
But the truth is that there has also been a chronic problem with phonies and fakes who pretended to be psychic and have bilked gullible people over and over again over the years. Moreover, with the advent of cable TV these charlatans have gotten a mass media following.
Unlike the professional debunkers, the Joe Nickols of the world, I refuse to throw the baby out with the dirty bathwater. Paranormal phenomena are real; I know of many people who have genuine experiences, even if only once in their lifetime. Similarly, I have met a few people whom I believe to be genuinely psychic. I think that everyone has that potential, at the very least.
But there are also those only too willing to exploit popular interest in the subject for a fast buck. The truth is, that some people want to tell us what is behind the beyond, when they don’t even know what is beyond their behind!