The Back and Forth

Door

Photo courtesy of iStock.

This morning, at 5:53 AM, the door of the bedroom I was sleeping in opened on its own. It gave off a continuous creak as it slowly moved from its fully closed position to a mostly opened one. I happened to already be awake, so I was able to open my eyes fully and watch the process take place from start to finish. Before I finish the story, I’ll segue into into some side information so as to speak to ghosts and unnatural observations.

Elliott O’ Donnell (1872-1965), was of Irish descent and English birth. He became an actor, an author, and would be well described in today’s terms as a, “ghost hunter.” He was accomplished in authoring numerous titles that involved the supernatural. His bibliography included a combination of both fiction and, according to O’ Donnell, non-fiction. He possessed a multi-dimensional talent about him and was successful with his different exploits. Much of his writing survives into print in the current day.

As early as age five, O’Donnell believed that he  saw a ghostly figure. Additionally, in recounting his days as a college student, O’ Donnell said that he encountered an apparition of some sort in his dormitory room. As the story is recounted, the dark silhouette became malevolent and attempted to do harm to the eyewitness of O’ Donnell. These two stories were trumpeted events in O’ Donnell’s recited history, and he maintained the truth of the other preternaturally themed accounts that were included in his works of non-fiction designation.

A quick psychological assessment of O’ Donnell’s timeline might suggest a predisposition to belief if he first saw a ghost at such a young age. Also, the question could be raised if he were fantasy prone to some degree if this event happened so early in his life and carried into an interest that he held onto his entire life. Or, if he simply had an enjoyment for the subject matter, he may have been able to take his communicational skills as an actor and writer and turn them into vehicles for making a living in a manner he enjoyed. But, unless there is some historical opinion of which I’m not aware, I would not suggest doubting that O’ Donnell had an underlying belief that was sincere. Most of all, let me assure the reader that I am not throwing O’ Donnell underneath the bus, here. My intent is quite the opposite. I am using his example, to instead, hold my own self accountable.

If one has read my last blog entry, they will quickly see that in addition to trying to throw in some educational information, the piece also contains a portion of idealized writing. It goes beyond mere communication of certain relevant concepts when considering paranormal phenomena and their reduction. Present within its terminating remarks are expressions of the ideal, the sentimental, and the dramatic. The piece is not only informative, but by design, it is also heightened in grandiosity, even though it too is steeped in sincerity.

I make the comparison between O’ Donnell and myself so I can highlight the importance of my awareness. I’m not saying that O’ Donnell was not aware of how to carry on a dialogue about the empirical versus the assumed. And, I have no problem with him being sincere in his belief. Rather, I am simply trying to call emphasis to my commitment to hold myself to an objective standard on the matter of ghosts. As outlandish as a paranormal proposition may seem to me, I still think that the most appropriate reaction is to test it, of course, if it has not already been tested before by reliable experimenters. Even then, I’m often willing to go back and enjoy the occasional retest. O’ Donell would have been convinced that something otherworldly could potentially haunt a hallway in an antebellum home. In my comments in posts prior, I have never meant to state my opinions as strongly as would have been O’ Donnell’s. My greater focus simply lies in acknowledging that there are multitudinous claims in conjunction with a property I have been able to visit in a firsthand fashion, and I would like to see them brought to bear. I would simply love to have the time and access to come to some more definitive conclusions about the property. These conclusions should not be bolstered by any predilicitions. Instead, they should be arrived at only through objective evidence.

An idealized form of writing is NOT investigation, whether it is written by me or anyone else. An audience should hold my feet to the fire as quickly as anyone. The standards of investigation I cling to are independent of any suspicions held one way or the other about ghosts. There should be no allowance of any fantasy or confabulated application that distorts what actually occurs at a location that is of haunted repute.

The environment of significance needs to have an understood baseline. There needs to be adequate time for observing a property and arriving at reliable reports which offer a valid synopsis on why a property has been interpreted in the way that it has. Or, even better when possible, a direct explanation of why certain phenomena have been reported is the ultimate win. Controls that eliminate interference with this interpretive data are also consequential for getting at the most reliable answers. Just because I dreamily write a comparison of investigation to a chess match is not submitted to the exclusion of investigative protocol. And, the act of public recording in a blog does not imply the inference of hoped for dramatic escalation. By and large, my last blog entry is simply a journaling effort as much as it is an informational effort. The delineation is here so made.

However, what can take place at this juncture is to consider haunted hallways and doors. We can take simpler examples to make good points. What me must not do is fall into the trap of using more elementary examples and then applying them to all anomalies with a broad sweeping brush as an answer-all approach.

If one takes the examples of Ockham’s razor and the proposition of anecdotal evidence, we can briefly speak to two key aspects of the discussion of ghosts. Yes, if we get into Ockham’s razor, parsimony, and eyewitness claims, we can consider our methodology, as well as any additional attempted testing we may choose to add, if it really can be added at all.

It is important to get the science process rolling with Ockham in a way that prevents the razor from negligently being used too prematurely to announce an assumed leading cause of agency. This part of the puzzle is why it is so important to have the time to properly study an environment. If efforts are suspended too early, it may be assumed that the most simple explanation HAS been isolated and locked in. But, what if, in fact, there were an additional variable or two that needed consideration? What I can say is that in the case of my door this morning, I did not need any additional investigation time. In the case of the hallway that I wrote of yesterday, I need quite a lot more time. I cannot immediately invoke Ockham on the hallway at this point and then tell you, “well this has to be the explanation.” At this stage, the waters are still murky. We cannot assume the most simple explanation without having the right explanation as possible candidate. We need time to arrive at what explanation, in concordance with Ockham, that answer may be.

And, in regard to anecdotal evidence, how far is it to be taken? In the case of my door from this morning, there is none to consider. But, when speaking about my mysterious hallway, there is quite a lot to sort through. Yes, there are limitations to eyewitness testimony, and it has to be treated with those constraints in mind. At the same time, some of this testimony can be beneficial to aiding the forensic side of a deconstruction. I once knew of a person who made an incredible identification based on something they had seen on a different day, in a totally different setting, and that required an impressive recall of detailed recognition. And, in the case of the eyewitnesses I have talked to about my hallway of interest, there is no question that they have registered something at differing times. The question is not whether or not something has been seen. The question has now shifted over to asking what has been perceived? The consideration of anecdotal evidence does not automatically mean that a ghost is implied. Taking into account these recitations, rather, may be significant in contributing to an explanation as to what really lies at the heart of the explanation. For anyone who wants to believe, the invitation will always be there. The trick is to resist that beckoning if and when the data is gapped or errant. I have not taken the bait. I continue to wait patiently, yet enthusiastically, to have another chance to observe.

And, in order to complete my story from my opening paragraph, I will now explain. There are simple reasons for knowing why the door opened all by itself. Right above the room is a central heating unit in the attic. When it is running full throttle while beginning to warm up the home at the start of the day, it sends out quite a lot of vibration. The waves travel the two by four beams inside the walls, the drywall, the door frame, and the door itself. Furthermore, the door is slightly out of line. If one conducts tests with it, even after locking the door knob, a push from the outside with only slight force will ensure that the locked door opens. In this case, Ockham quickly wins. There is no reason to suspect any other causes for the door opening by itself. And, because of this high degree of certainty, there are no anecdotal tales in pursuit that perhaps a ghost entered my room at 6 o’ clock in the morning. We have our suspects accounted for already. However, the hallway down the road is a different matter, and is a more complex challenge.

An opening door has been the simpler Back for the day.

My hope is that a storied hallway will avail itself and be the push Forth someday that I have longed for in terms of explanation.

BT

 

13 thoughts on “The Back and Forth

  1. It is true that many people immediately make a seemingly paranormal/odd event connect with a ghostly presence or an alien presence or the shadow in the forest is Bigfoot, depending on where their influence of belief or interests lie. Why wouldn’t they assume a Goblin pushed the door open? Or perhaps when you awoke and looked in the direction of the door, you opened the door with telekinesis? Why does the sound of a creaking door breaking the silence even give off an eerie vibe? I think partly because it sounds like a distorted moaning or wail, which may be why its often used in film to create suspense and unease. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound? If you WD-40 the hinges of a door, and a ghost opens it, will anyone notice?

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    1. Great points. It can be tempting, and so easy to fill in the gaps. Since an event breaks the norm, then our brains may choose to try and compensate with an explanation. Part of the effort to understand is the interpretive process. I’m interested in digging deeper into how we have made certain correlations over the centuries. Interesting that you also bring up telekinesis. A little farther down the road, I hope to address some of the psychokinetic ideas that have been put forth by parapsychologists and where there are problems. Addressing ghostly phenomena from a department at a university does not always mean we necessarily fare better with any real strides of understanding. That’s not to say there aren’t some insights gained as there have been some intelligent researchers. But, from the standpoint of the bigger picture in terms of parapsychology, I don’t feel the endeavor to be any farther along, and I will try to give reason as to why. Hypotheses can be put forth in the name of the modern in order to supplant older ideas, but I’ve often felt that they have made no more sense than the traditional standbys when it comes to parapsychology and ghosts. And, a great question about the sound even adding to the effect. Throw in some dissonance in the sound and perhaps it further adds some dramatic effect to the brain. If the WD-40 takes away some of the effect, does it lessen some of the temptation to jump to the assumption of a ghost? Thanks for your commentary.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Blaine, there will always be the unexplained and it seems that is their intention. My parents had a ghost in their attic during the mid-eighties. Their pets would refuse to go near the steps. My parents would hear the rattling of chains behind the locked attic door. After gaining entrance, the room was empty, except of course for the chains and a tin plate on the floor. Upon leaving, the rattling of chains would begin again. Going back in the house’s history, the owners locked their mentally challenged son in the attic. There, he was chained and fed.
    Your story is a very dark compelling one. Perhaps one day, unanswered questions will come to light.

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    1. Hi Lance,

      Thanks so much for those words. I never thought I would have the opportunity to chat with you about anything but poetry and writing. For you to stop by and share the fact that you have an anomalistic story of your own is so very much appreciated. I have always been grateful to those who have been open and who have taken the time to give me a recounting of an experience either they have had, or someone they know has had. Even with my stubborn devotion to trying to academically make sense of the whole affair, people have been so gracious to still share with me, and this fact really has meant a lot to me. I have always worried that people may think I preach fairness, but that I don’t actually practice it. They may assume that I’m not willing to budge from skeptical orthodoxy. We have to start with some sort of a frame of reference to put our backs against when considering qualitative measure. What I like about science is, if the frame of reference is found to be in error in some area, it can be corrected. It’s a critical balance; trying to adhere to good and properly defined principles of inquiry, while at the same time being receptive to any evidence that demands a further look. Just as your story would indelibly leave an impression with your parents and you, the home I have referenced has challenged my mind in a productive way. Based on the number of accounts and the magnitude of many of these tellings, the home has a reputation that is almost grotesquely overt in its history. I feel as if I’ve almost been dared to doubt, and I welcome the challenge. Without meaning to contradict what I have blogged up above, I can say that I have joked with the property owner and said that all I need is one more slight nudge and I’m on their side. 🙂 It’s okay to have a sense of humor in the midst of the quest. But, if the home were to really be understood, whether in terms of natural explanation or in terms of knowledge that was otherwise previously missing, as long as it is understood objectively, the world stands to gain in a furthered peeling back of its onion, even if the layer is of the thinnest thickness. After eighteen years of asking and looking, I would be thrilled with just a smidgeon of revelation for better discerning how and why this specific environment in a home has been perceived in the way that it has and as strongly as it has. It’s a bit comedic in how I’ve been the skeptic over the years and have cited my academic influences, and yet, I would hope that the believer could give me some credit right now for wanting to test onward. A furthered enlightenment is only going to come if study IS performed. I think it more in the spirit of science to engage than it is to scoff and take a walk. Your family story is so interesting, it aligns with certain patterns that have been reported with haunting phenomena, as does my hallway of interest. But, rather than leave these kinds of accounts lying in a shelved state, to borrow words from a writer, I believe their pages need to be turned and deconstructed. We all stand to gain a better identification with ourselves as humans by looking at these accounts and looking them squarely in the face rather than setting them to the side. And, you’re right, in the case of the story of the hallway I have mentioned there is a bit of a dark element that is factored in if one listens to the spoken and reported incidents affiliated with the home as they are filtered by our human ears. I also think it healthy to always shed light where there is dark. And, I think science, or the spirit of good science does such, and I thank you for hoping along with me that maybe some of these questions that I have, which are age old and far from being original to me, will become illuminated to some degree. The quote is often produced in conjunction with skepticism, but in its looming sentiment, I think these words of closing speak well for all of us from Baruch Spinoza having opined,

      “I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.”

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      1. Hello, Blaine. It is a sincere pleasure. Thank you for sharing your fascinating ghost stories. Yes, indeed humor is a strong catalyst in solving mysteries of the paranormal. Perhaps the sharing of the supernatural by others will help in getting closer to the truth. I truly hope you will seek your quest with some satisfaction. *Great quote!

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      2. Hey Lance, Sorry, for my delayed reply! I’ve been studying for some certification exams so I’m late in checking wordpress postings. I’m keeping my sense of humor handy for more than just contemplating the paranormal these days. I’m learning more about motherboards than I had ever planned. 😀 And, the sharing really does help. There are so many things I’m listening for when someone is kind enough to tell me their story. I always have follow-up questions. Someone once described their individual sighting in such detail that I can still mentally replay it in my own mind. I’m always learning by listening. Thanks again for your exhortations. The hallmarks are usually few and far between. Patience has to be kept close. But, the reward is worth the slow moving climb.

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      3. Blaine, quite alright and understandable. You seem to have a lot on your plate, juggling as it were. Always wise to keep one’s sense of humor near at hand for the unexpected. And, one must keep learning and listening- a life long process. Always a sincere pleasure… many sincere thanks to you for your in-depth thoughts and exceptionally written responses. I thoroughly enjoy reading them!

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      4. I’m glad my juggling act shows. 😀 Maybe that means you can believe me when I say I’m late for a reason. I tell ya, there’s something to be said about a sense of humor, isn’t there? 😀 It always makes things go better. And, I agree. Learning should never stop. I will always consider myself the student and not the teacher. Same here, I never want to miss a chance to discuss with you, so I hated being late. ALL of your poems are works of art. But, as the process of poetry goes, because of own personal experiences, I enjoy the fact that there are going to be some of the poems that strike me to the very core of my heart. Those are the ones that seem to call me by name. It’s always wonderful to go back and re-read those lines and have them sink inward.

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      5. Very pronounced, but you handle it well. Without grief, there can be no humor. We are all students, even the best writers and poets. My utmost gratitude and deepest thanks for your first rate support, Blaine. Thank you!

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      6. Maybe I can figure out what the effort is all for, one of these days. 😉 And, that’s a keen observation. How can grief and humor be of such close proximity? That one keeps me thinking as much as ghosts.

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      7. So long as you keep moving, that’s all that matters. Thank you. Always food for thought.

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  3. Have you encountered many ‘one-uppers’ in this field? I’ve witnessed a large amount..

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    1. It’s a great question, Matt. Inevitably it happens, and its consideration has to be kept at hand when listening to and breaking the elements down. I probably ran into it a little more at the first property I spent the most time at. First there were photos, and maybe some audio. Later, there was at least one claim of intelligent interaction through electronics. The determination that ghosts were present at that mansion came through differing levels of determination. Some claims of evidence by ghost hunters there were much more ambitious, but really all of it suspect. I was fortunate enough to get to look over some of the evidence that was left behind for the property owner. What I can tell you that has been encouraging to me, though, has been speaking to individuals one-on-one about their personal ghost stories. It can be seen where I’ve written public words of thanks to those who have been willing to share their accounts with me. In the cases of sitting across the table from or standing and talking to claimants, I have been impressed with the sincerity of the tellings. They have helped me to learn so much and to remain humble. In a group dynamic where a common interest is shared, enthusiasm could certainly help to innocently embellish traded ghost stories. But, in my experience, claimants have not sought to be over the top. They have sought to be descriptive, one of which was so detailed in its being relayed that I can still picture it as if a movie. Usually, for better understanding, I ask additional questions so I can understand details of a claim. In her case, she gave so many details in her first telling that I didn’t have to drill down very much farther. I’m always trying to understand and picture what it is that a claimant is describing. The discussion will continue on where the explanations for the accounts reside, but by and large, most of the ghost tales that I have heard in person have been sincere. And, everyone that I have gotten to speak with are very well-adjusted and grounded individuals. Are there some fabrications? Sure, when it comes to this kind of territory, there will be some made up stories, not out of malicious intent, but out of psychological incentive. Whatever one’s opinion on ghosts, most of the eyewitnesses I have spoken to are telling their accounts sincerely and as accurately as they can understand them. These facts are why it has been so rewarding to go out into the field. There can be assumptions about how things are out in the field, some of which may be true, but there are also those which are not true. A person can’t appreciate the entire scenario unless they are there to see for themselves. I know I used to hear retellings, and I would immediately think of how things could be explained in terms of interpretation and reinforcement. But, in some of these cases, even if there is no DIRECT evidence of a ghost, an observer, if present, could still understand how certain unfolding events coud leave a memorable impression for people that are present, with question marks remaining attached. Have I seen fraud? Yes. Then, a step down from that extreme, I have seen psychologies, that because of a predisposition or devotion to belief, will overlook faulty means of gathering data. But, a great deal of my experience has been so positive. Outright believers have taught me some valuable lessons, and on more than one occasion they have reminded where I need to live up to the ideal of fair and standard practice. I had doubt that proof of ghosts is there to be found, but I have always been willing to go and look. I would be as excited as believers if the reality of ghosts could be found and established without doubt, but there is a lot of distortion to have to wade through. The hunt continues. And, speaking of seeing things for what they really are, I came so very close to commenting on your poem about narcissism last night. But, I didn’t want my comments to blatantly come from my own personal experience. 😀 They would have been a little on the negative side since I hold a zero tolerance policy for sociopathy and any of its kin. 😀 It sounds like you and I both have been rudely introduced to that world. We could talk about one upsmanship in that arena, too, couldn’t we? 😀 Thanks for stopping by, Matt. I really do enjoy getting to look at the world through your words. We are seeing some of the same things. But, you know how to capture them and bring them back into frame for the rest of us.

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