Paranormal Experiences? Yeah, I’ve Had ‘Em. Still A Skeptic

One thing about being in this house: I get to encounter a variety of people. Not that my life is an echo chamber – I certainly run into plenty of people with opinions different from mine online, but in real life, I can’t just groan and click away when my woo-quotient for the day has been met. This leads to me having to explain things. Or flee back to my fortress of solitude when a proper conversation can’t be had. There’s always that option. S is pretty good at warning guests that I’m a hermit, so I don’t have to hurt any feelings by running away.

I’m not sure if he warns them that I’m a skeptic and atheist, but they surely do find out when they make the mistake of asking me for my opinion on certain subjects.

Most of them are quite able to accept the fact that I think their nonsense is nonsense. I’m direct, but I try not to be mean about it. If they’re happy and not harming themselves, they’re welcome to their woo, just so long as they don’t try to convert me. Most of them either drop the subject, or we kind of talk past each other a bit before moving on to other things.

What amuses me, though, is how many of them are surprised by my history. They assume I’ve always been a skeptical atheist. When I tell them I used to be a Christian, they’re shocked. When I share the fact I was in to UFOs and all sorts of paranormal bollocks, they’re amazed. I don’t think it ever occurs to them how much people can change.

Many of them say, “Well, I’ve had experiences, and that’s why I believe in x.”

They’re absolutely astounded when I say, “Oh, I’ve had those experiences, too.”

I mean, honestly, people, why else did you think I’ve been a member of a doomsday cult?R and I were sitting at the kitchen table when she brought up the subject and I told her I’d been there, done that. She wanted to know what those experiences were. So I told her about one particular time, with everyone asleep in the house, when I was sitting upon the porcelain throne at three in the ay-em, reading a book. All was silent as only Page, Arizona can be on the outskirts of town, aside from the dulcet tones of my dad snoring. My FSM, that man can snore. But luckily, I could only hear him faintly as I tended my business.

And then I heard, high up on the bathroom door, perfectly centered, three loud, measured knocks.


And my dad, who can hear a pin drop in the next county when he’s trying to sleep, did not even snort. There was no creak of a floorboard, no squish of footsteps in the carpet.

I sat on that toilet for at least a solid hour, too terrified to move or make a sound. Finally, I crept out into the silent, dark, and empty hallway, and fled to my room. When I asked my mom the next day, she’d heard nothing, and hadn’t knocked on the door.

So that’s paranormal, right? Well, no. Later, I learned about auditory hallucinations, and how perfectly healthy people can have them. Brains are just odd.

And writers’ brains are especially weird. People, I have imaginary people living inside my head. They pop out with the oddest things, some of which I later find out are true. Like the time a character informed me she’d grown up during the intifada, and I told her, bollocks, she’s too young. Then I did some research on Palestine. Sure enough, there had been a second intifada, right around when she would have been a child. She was right and I was wrong. How could that be, if I’d made her up? Well, blind bloody fortune, or a half-forgotten factoid lodged in the dark corners of my brain. I mean, I did spend an appreciable amount of my college career researching Israel and Palestine, and so I tend to give any news from that region at least a quick curious glance.

But I mentioned doomsday cult, didn’t I? Perhaps I shouldn’t skip so lightly over that. Yes, I was part of a group of high school kids who didn’t plump for drugs or sex or sports to entertain ourselves in a boring town. No, we chose to read Frank Peretti and Robert Jordan novels and scare ourselves silly thinking we were the only ones to stand between the world and certain destruction by demons. We ran all over the desert saving the planet. We were really good at it. We had powers, buddy. I convinced a skeptic friend of them once by hitting her with an energy beam, even. I saw red eyes glowing from the desert. I heard creatures stalking us from the bushes. I watched a huge dark-winged form sink behind the houses once. And I saw every street lamp go out along the road we were traveling, one by one, when we were under demonic attack once.

Image shows a forest at night with red eyes glowing from between the trees.
Gorilla-Wolves by 22aroth. (CC BY 3.0)

Okay, never mind the fact that my skeptical friend also happened to be part of a charismatic church that very much believed in demonic attack and the power of prayer, and that I can be goddamned convincing when I stare into your eyes. Betcha to this day I could hit you with my super energy powers, if you’d been primed by your upbringing to believe in such things, even if you didn’t think I could bloody well wield them.

And ignore the fact that the high deserts around Page are full of little critters with reflective eyes, who probably wonder WTF a bunch of silly teenagers are doing out there stamping around and occasionally screaming, and who might rustle around either keeping an eye on us, or going for grub.

Forget that I’d been wanting to see one of those dark-winged critters really really bad, as proof this was all really-real, and that I’ve been prone to being able to put myself into a mindset where I can have vivid visual hallucinations ever since I was a wee bairn. Didn’t I mention, writers’ brains are weird? I can still do that, if I get deep into fiction mode.

And, of course, you can completely disregard the fact that those streetlamps were awfully prone to winking off and on whether demons were thought to be around or not. Faulty wiring? Vibration from passing cars plus atmospheric conditions causing something to short out or suchlike? Or just random chance: it’s not like that happened every time we crossed the dam while thinking we were chasing demons.

People often ask me to keep an open mind. I have. I was open to all of those experiences, and I stayed open while I read about statistics, and mass hysteria, and neurology, and how correlation doesn’t equal causation, and serendipity, and physics, and got to know my writer’s brain better. I stayed open as I tried to replicate things, and found that some things that should have been easy to replicate weren’t. I was open as I learned about alternate explanations for ghostly goings on, and how often we find a thoroughly mundane explanation for the paranormal. I was open until I had enough evidence, and then I decided I’d no longer waste my time with woo. The universe is too fucking interesting without chasing after bullshit, thanks.

I’m still open. I’m open to the fact that certain practices have deep meaning for people. I’m open to the idea that some forms of woo can make you feel really nice and special, because I’ve been there, and it was great. I’m super open to folks who are like, “I know this probably isn’t real, and I can’t prove it, but I enjoy it!” Get on with your chanting, crystal-magic, ghost-hunting self, then. Just so long as you’re not dodging vaccines and trying to cure your cancer with reiki alone, okay? I’m open to that. And I’m open to you bouncing up to my door with a well-designed, statistically-significant study or other proof that some of this shit’s objectively, empirically true. That would certainly be exciting!

But I’m not open to believing it’s all really-real without extraordinary evidence. Already been there. I’m not open to playing around with it anymore – the shine is off that stuff. I’ve got other things to do that don’t annoy the crap out of me, thanks.

Like, in fact, debunking woo! Like so:

So tell me your stories. Were you always skeptics, or did you come to it from woo? Are you annoyed by people insisting you keep an open mind after you told them you’ve evaluated the available evidence and found it lacking? How open, exactly, do minds have to be?

Paranormal Experiences? Yeah, I’ve Had ‘Em. Still A Skeptic
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24 thoughts on “Paranormal Experiences? Yeah, I’ve Had ‘Em. Still A Skeptic

  1. 1

    I came from it with a combination of woo and skepticism… I tried to keep my woo as plausible as possible, which is more than a little odd. And my woo was truly woo-y.

    You see, I’m otherkin. I still use that label because while I no longer believe in souls and reincarnation, my view of my ‘self’ is a dragon-like creature. I’ve had phantom limb sensations from the time I was a child and assumed this was all normal. Then got more into christianity and suppressed it all for about 4 years and then at age thirteen I read the bible for the first time. I was no longer christian by the time I got to exodus. I looked at other gods. I did the celtic pantheon for a bit, then settled on generic deities. Then decided to follow the deities from my ‘recovered memories about my previous lifetimes as a dragon-ish entity’. I was active in the dragonkin community for at least a decade, and moderated several forums. And while I was full of woo, I also had an inkling about biology and I was very willing to argue with people who claimed to be physically transforming (and somehow had no access to a camera, imagine that, and wouldn’t accept offers to be sent one), or those who claimed to be native to Earth (that whole lack of 6-limbed vertebrates thing is problematic), or claimed things like being… 300 feet long with a 100 foot wingspan weighing 30 tons and flying without the aid of magic! (huzzabuh?)
    Eventually I broadened my definition and understanding of what sort of people claimed to be otherkin (reincarnation, incarnation, walk-ins, multiples initially) and found a few that considered it a purely psychological phenomena. At this point I was only vaguely deist, and as I had always been willing to admit, and in fact adamant about the need to acknowledge, the fact that *I had no proof for any of this*, I began to ponder if it was really reincarnation or a mental quirk.
    I knowingly clung to the reincarnation idea because being dead terrifies me, but eventually I had to admit that I was an atheist and that went out… and left me still feeling dragonish.

    For wooful experiences:

    I merged with the All, the great Consciousness that makes up the entire Universe! Each person was like the individual cells in our brains and for those few moments that I was merged, I knew Everything and it was Perfect Peace and Joy. I suspect this is the state one is supposed to be achieving in zen meditations? But either way it was immensely powerful.

    I saw a cat ghost! We had a kitty in the vet tech’s office that had a strange form of cancer that was calcifying all his joints, so he couldn’t bend his legs much and he needed lots of space to be able to maneuver around at all. He was a lovely black tuxedo cat. We also had, at the time, a pair of fat black-and-white hospital cats.

    So, I was in the kennel area cleaning empty cages near the hallway leading to the break room and one of the exits that led to the back and the creek there. Out of the corner of my eye I saw some black and white cat legs approaching, so I backed up a space to let the cat by. I directly watched these legs walk past me and watched them stroll down the hallway until they faded out at the exit door. And it was then that I realised that I had been *only* seeing the *legs*. No body. Gave me a good bit of heeby jeebies, but whatever. I went back to cleaning the cages and feeding animals. An hour later, I walked into the treatment area and the cancer-cat was flat on one of the exam tables. I asked what happened and they told me that the cat had died about an hour prior. And thus did the heeby jeebies return! Apparently he decided to take a stroll down the hallway as his newly functional legs. :P

    My response to people insisting I keep an open mind is to tell them: “My mind is open. It’s just not so open that my brain falls out.”

  2. Ivo

    Except for some vague sense of oneness with God (occasionally, when I was taken to church as an impressionable young kid) or with the Universe (occasionally, after reading some Eastern tome of wisdom as a mystical-minded teen), I’ve had exactly one experience that clearly counts as paranormal.

    I was coming home from my younger sister’s funeral. It was dark, I was walking alone and all was perfectly quiet. I was staying overnight all by myself at my father’s home, the big house where my siblings and I grew up, because everybody else in my family had made other arrangements for that sad day, but I had just flown in from Singapore for the funeral and I got to stay in the big empty house.

    I opened the creaky side gate, took a couple of steps and heard: “Lisa”.
    It was a girly whisper, very clear and very close to my ears. I froze immediately, and after a few moments I heard it again: “Lisa”. Then I heard some giggly laughter.

    Scared shitless, I remained standing in the dark backyard for a long time, furiously trying to rationalize what had happened. At 31, I was a well-seasoned skeptic materialist, so I looked around for those insensitive pranksters who were whispering my dead sister’s name to me… knowing all too well that nobody could have spoken directly into my ear from the nearest hiding places. Nor did I hear anybody move away, nor was anybody there when I checked the various bushes and walls. Nor in fact did anybody except my closest family knew that our sister’s funerals had taken place that day.

    So I ended up running to my aunt’s next door and telling everybody there what had happened, trying to laugh about it and to exorcise it out of my head.

    Now I believe it most probably was an auditory hallucination, what with me being jetlagged, tired and distraught.

  3. 3

    Rowan vet-tech, your merging with the All is a classic mystical experience. Large numbers of people have had such experiences, and some of the odder sorts of metaphysics have been constructed to explain them.

    Here’s an analogy: a phantom limb or stump hallucination. One will call it that even though one experiences that limb. This is because the limb’s presence is contrary to the model of reality that one unconsciously develops with one’s other senses. But if one decides that that limb is present, one must argue away that reality model. This is what some metaphysics tries to do, to argue that mystical experiences are perceptions of Real Reality or whatever, while everything else is some kind of hallucination.

    BTW, I’ve seen mystical experiences called “transcendence hallucinations”.

  4. 4

    I too grew up in a cult. You probably know them by the name Southern Baptists. I realize that they don’t fall into the actual definition of “cult” but I don’t care. 25 years of living thru that shit and that’s how I view it. Anyway, I believed it all. Accepted it without a doubt. However, I never had any mystical experiences, or “miracles”, or anything of the sort. The only thing I’ve ever experienced is what I think is known as sleep or dream paralysis. It’s happened to me twice and both times occurred before I realized I was a godless heathen. The strange thing is how quickly I went from thinking I was being “abducted” by something to realizing I was still in my room laying on my bed. I had no idea of what actually happened at the time. It was a few years later before I ever heard of this sort of thing and actually had an explanation. Even though it’s not something unique I can state that it is very strange and shocking.
    As far as woo or miracles or anything mystical et al., my view of it now is that I’d just rather not have anyone waste my time. Professional skeptics have spent too long debunking people’s claims of this stuff without anyone showing any proof for me to listen anymore claims. I go back to the question: If you don’t actually have proof, then why simply claim the supernatural?

  5. 5

    Would it be OK to talk about what woo-woo one likes on esthetic grounds? Even if one considers it totally absurd.

    I nominate UFO contactees. If you think that UFO abductions are weird, you should see UFO friendly contacts. I confess to once being very entranced by George Adamski’s book “Inside the Spaceships”. It might be described as a cross between Star Trek and a huge pile of woo-woo. His earlier coauthored book “Flying Saucers Have Landed” contains a prequel, GA’s first encounter with his alleged ET friends.

  6. 6

    Darren VanDusen, it seems to me like you suffered from sleep paralysis. That likely accounts for a lot of UFO abductions.

    The woman in the “Crystal Magic” video was demonstrating the “ideomotor effect”, making the crystal swing in various directions by unconsciously moving the hand that the crystal was suspended from. Without her hand giving it hints, the crystal did not move at all.

  7. 7

    I am sure you’ve heard the wonderful Tim Minchin song “Take My Wife” subtitled ” If you open your mind too much your brain will fall out”

    I grew up in a moderate Christian home where church was a socially accepted thing you did on Sundays. The teachings never made sense to me, but as my home life in my teens got really difficult (alcoholic parents with an abusive father, and lots of moving to different cities, I went to over 19 schools between grades 6 and 12) I found myself yearning for the stability that some religious people seem to have. The idea that SOMEONE was looking out for me, and that the year was set out in different holy days with rituals and community that repeated every year was very attractive . For a year or so I was a fervent Christian.

    But then I made the mistake of reading the Bible. It was certainly NOT what the priests were saying in their sermons. It was brutal, promoted hate, and certainly degraded me as a woman/girl. So I read the Koran, the Gita, Zen and Tao teachings, all sorts of alternate “spiritual” books, and even waded though the Book of Mormon.

    I attended a different church, temple, etc every week. And I could see was social control and profound attempts to make people guilty plus a whole lot of Bronze Age and Medieval nonsense. Of course there was some wonderful literature and insights, and I was not immune to the atmosphere of committed people worshiping together. I loved the sense of community but, but, but………..I had enough of being put down, and made to feel guilty and worthless in my own life. I didn’t need whole establishments dedicated to that. I also had enough of pretending that things were not what they were; my mother did enough of that.
    So I turned pagan for a while. I liked the connection to the earth and nature but it felt too much like just wishful thinking. I could see how casting spells and doing rituals could focus the mind but I found I had no belief in them of themselves. I knew enough science to feel that crystals and “energies” were silly.

    At university I took scholastic philosophy as well as main studies in history. I found the circular and sometimes dishonest reasoning of Augustus, Aquinas etc really off-putting. I read about their private lives, and their beliefs had certainly not made them decent human beings……..The more I looked the more human damage I saw caused by religion.

    So I have been a very happy atheist for decades. I take responsibility for my own life and my actions. I believe if I feel kindness is important, then I must be kind. If I hope for justice for people I must work to promote that. I do not pray to a god for a hungry child to be fed, I work to feed them. I accept myself, warts and all, and extend kindness to myself as well as others. Truth is really important to me, the “what is” rather than “what I would like it to be”.

    The world, and the universe are full of wonder and beauty, and I am content to walk this earth for my time and experience what is here.

    Sorry if this is a bit long…..

  8. 8

    I used to be fascinated with the Bermuda Triangle thing. One episode of Nova fixed that. That single episode turned me into a skeptic. I quit believing everything that sounded cool just because it sounded cool.

    I’ve had a few “paranormal” experiences. Most are classic sleep paralysis. I saw a UFO once. It was a good one, too. My mom and I were taking down clothes from the line one evening. My mom said that plane is sure low to the ground, why can’t we hear it. I looked up and saw at least four lights, traveling together. My brain identified them as lights on a passenger sized plane that was pretty low to the ground. I lived on Air Force bases my whole childhood, so I knew we should have been able to hear it. At the time we were living in Carlsbad CA about three blocks from the Pacific. Then, suddenly the lights separated. The southern one went south, the northern one went north, etc. including the one I thought was a tail light, which headed back the way it had come. They were moving very fast and were out of sight in a couple of seconds.

    So what did I see? I have no idea. I’ve never come up with any kind of reasonable explanation. Do I think they were lights on vehicles much higher up traveling together? No, because when they split up they were moving too fast. Do I think it was extraterrestrial? I consider that highly unlikely. So I just have to go with I don’t know.

  9. 10

    Heh. I grew up in the land o’woo, so it was probably to be expected I’d absorb some (okay, many) beliefs and practices. Lost my faith in deities pretty early. Never could get behind magnet healing, Lemurians, or ionized laundry. However, I did for a time hold minute-to-entrenched beliefs in things like talismans, ghosts, big foot (man, that one was hard to let go of!), the collective consciousness, astrology, tarot, and psychics. Thought amber necklaces for teething babies was probably a crock of shit, all the while giving my infants homeopathic teething tablets. Did not believe in demons, did believe that people could affect each other with negative thoughts/vibes/whatever, and that objects held the energy of those who’d owned them.

    I’d seen so many things I couldn’t explain otherwise, you see! Except, as my belief in the above phenomenon started to wane, so did my supposedly tangible experiences with such. Moving away from land o’woo helped, since I was no longer bombarded more or less daily with social pressure to attribute supernatural influences to ordinary, or extraordinary, events.

    The last big woo beliefs I shed were collective consiousness, ghosts, psychics, and astrology. I wanted them to be real SO BADLY. Sometimes I still wonder, in the way that someone who’s lost their faith in deities might still occasionally pray, just in case, even knowing it’s futile, because it was habit for so long, even though it’s no longer comforting. To be honest I kind of miss that world full of magic. I never wanted any deity to be real but I really wanted to be living a life guided by my great grandmother, and to be able to tap into some psychic plane whereby things like knowing who was calling before the phone rang was loaded with Important Meaning. Which sounds so silly when I type it to be read by other people in public! But I really, truly believed it, because I wanted it to be real, and I wanted it to be real because I needed to be special, unique, amazing in some way that didn’t have anything to do with Jesus. I needed to have powers, because I needed to have power over something in my life, so that I didn’t feel so helpless. I needed to feel connected to something because people were, for the most part, untrustworthy and I couldn’t stand feeling alone. I needed the world to be at least a little bit magical and inexplicable, and to be a part of that, somehow. Since I couldn’t believe in deities, psychic energy it was.

    I still get twinges sometimes, so-and-so who is dead is watching you, can hear you. Even though I know it’s BS, those thought patterns were, and are, so firmly entrenched that I can slip back into them when I am tired or stressed pretty easily. Knowing rationally that the son of the old owners of my house cannot possibly be standing behind me watching me try to sleep doesn’t remove the feeling of someone watching me sleep. It’s just that now I know that what I am experiencing is probably a bit of anxiety related to the vulnerability of being asleep, not actual ghosts, and that knowledge helps the feeling to wane rather than increase.

  10. 11

    I’ve pretty much always been a skeptic, thanks to my parents who were both irreligious and quick to call BS on anything that didn’t pass the smell test. As a kid/teen, I was an inveterate prankster, and occasionally made use of other people’s beliefs in the paranormal to put one over on them – like, for example, the time I surreptitiously blew on a candle flame to make it flicker “mysteriously” during a slumber party seance. I was a fairly accomplished actress, and was able to convincingly join in the general consternation and apprehension. I didn’t give the game away until the next morning, lol.

    Later, as a young adult (very early 20s), my BF brought home a paperback copy of Martin Gardner’s “Science, Good, Bad and Bogus,” which firmly embedded us in the skeptic movement as it existed in the early 1980s. Our active participation faded after I entered grad school, but our interest never waned completely… mostly it was refocused from paranormal stuff to creation science and health woo – the latter of which was the only woo I was ever really attracted to, but was ultimately disabused of due to an incident in – of all places – a health food store.

    At the time, I had just re-entered college to complete my undergrad degree – which I’d switched from Biology to Food Science. I was taking an upper-division biochemistry class at the time, and had recently completed a unit on vitamins. I was in the store – a small, suitably “earthy” looking place – to pick up some baking supplies, but had to wait at the counter while the clerk assisted another customer, a middle-age-ish woman who wanted 1,000 mg tablets of vitamin C. Having nothing else to do, I idly listened to the interaction as the woman was shown the available products and demanded to know why the vitamin C tablets on display were so much more expensive than the ones at the local chain drug store (she actually named a store, but after 30 years, I don’t recall which one it was). The clerk responded that the vitamins sold there were “made from coal tar,” whereas the vitamin C in question was “natural” because it was “from corn” – the emphasis on the “from” implied “extracted from” to me (and probably the woman too, since she purchased the product).

    As I completed my own purchases, my mind was still processing what I’d heard: I knew the “vitamin C from coal tar” bit was BS – the structure was all wrong. And some quick mental math based on very generous assumptions (extracting an improbably high 100mg of vitamin C from 100g of corn, with 100% extraction efficiency) convinced me that the implied extraction process was utterly impractical. Yet the clerk didn’t seem to be lying – I think she believed what she was saying. And I didn’t know enough at the time about how commercial vitamin C was manufactured, so I didn’t say anything. But finding out how vitamin C was made became my first priority on leaving the store, and it made me laugh when I flipped the Merck Index open at the library and discovered that industrial vitamin C was made from glucose. Naturally, it all fell into place: corn > cornstarch > glucose: the so-called “natural,” expensive vitamin C was the same cheap stuff sold at the drug store.

    It was an epiphany, really, to discover that people could a) be well-intentioned; and b) speak so authoritatively; and yet c) be completely full of s**t. Suffice it to say, after that, I started paying a lot more attention to nutritional/health claims, especially since I had the means to investigate them.

  11. 12

    So here’s my experiences, with their entirely-normal explanations to follow:

    1. I’m 6. My one-year-old brother woke up in the middle of the night crying. I go into his room and he is floating up out of his crib. I climb on to his crib to try and save him, but I can’t push him down. Then something unseen pushes me, and I hit my head on the wall and I’m out.

    2. Same house. I’m still 6. I get woken up in the middle of the night by a light shining in my eyes. Standing over my bed is what can only be described as the Boogie Man. I scream, and both my parents and my mom’s parents come running in. The Boogie Man disappears. I suffer from a rather crippling fear of the dark until my mid twenties (I’m 28 now, BTW).

    3. Different house, same state. I’m 8. I’m outside playing in a field when, from far off in the distance, I see a unicorn. An honest to goodness, real life unicorn.

    4. Different state. Living in an apartment. I’m 12. Behind our apartment is a walkway to a tiny little piece of land that crops out to the river. It has lot of trees on it (rather dense) I’m there by myself. Nobody else is there… not even animals. I hear rustling, turn around, and I see red eyes and the outline of a huge creature with wings. It says “you’re mine”. I run home faster than I’ve ever run in my life (to be fair, I’m technically in our back yard, so it’s not very far to run).

    5. Same state as 4. Now living in a house. I’m 16. I’m home alone. I hear someone walking up and down the stairs. This happens multiple times.

    And now for the natural explanations:

    1. My brother had messed his diaper. Mom was in there trying to take him out of his crib to change it. I also hadn’t climbed up on the crib, but on one of those old rocking horses. I wasn’t pushed. I fell. I don’t know if i had a concussion or not because I can’t remember if they took me to the doctor. I think I got knocked out… maybe…

    2. Neither my parents nor grandparents remember this happening. Likely explanation? My Dad loves horror movies. When everyone else went to bed, he would stay up to watch one. I sometimes snuck downstairs. I most likely saw one of these horror movies and it scared me enough to create the memory… or probably a nightmare. I still have a residual fear of the dark, sadly, although I’m much better managing it now that I have a better explanation for what happened.

    3. I was obsessed with unicorns for a number of years when I was a child. I wanted to see one so badly that I’m not surprised that I convinced myself I saw one.

    4. It was actually really dark and I had just seen (surprise surprise) another horror movie about an hour before going out. I spooked myself. I’m guessing I didn’t actually see or hear anything… my brain just filled in the memory later on.

    5. This also happened when everyone was home, I just didn’t notice it as much. One day I pointed it out to my dad, who explained that the house was pretty old and old houses creak all the time. And in fact this creaking that made me think of footsteps up and down the stairs happened most often during the transitions between seasons, especially winter to summer. And since the stairs were wood…


    For the record, I was pathetically gullible when I was a child. I loves “Touched by an Angel” when I was a little kid (now I see it for the crap that it is), and I actually thought the Irish woman was a real angel (I was a little kid here, remember) because of that episode where she revealed herself as one to a church. The concept of “special effects” didn’t exist to me at that time.

    To be honest, I’m still gullible. I think becoming a staunch skeptic is actually a defense mechanism for me because of that.

  12. 14

    I believed in some woo as a teenager, but pretty much grew out of it; later, I grew out of religion, too,

    At times in my life, when I was suffering rather badly from depression, I took to writing (bad) fiction as a way to cope. Coherent plots tend to elude me, but I like developing characters. They took on a life of their own, and after awhile they were telling me as much about themselves as I was telling them who they were. And they popped up in unexpected places. I remember one day at work, when I was struggling with getting a particularly obscure bit of someone else’s software to work, one of my characters appeared at the door of my cubicle. I was sufficiently shocked that I took myself off to the restroom, and when I came back he was gone… but that was one weird hallucination. It never happened again, or at least not so vividly as to be disconcerting.

    While I put that writing away several years ago, after my depression improved, one of the main characters (not the one from the vivid hallucination) still hangs out in my head as my conscience. Somehow it’s easier to be reminded by him that I need to get off my rear and and get X done, than having to remind myself. Go figure.

  13. 15

    otrame #7 — you may have seen the same Nova episode that I did. I remember from it a Bermuda Triangle believer saying something like “I didn’t want to write a dull book of facts”, as Lawrence Kusche had done, but “mystery”.

    As to your UFO’s, I think that they were some military airplanes flying in formation and then splitting up. As to their speeds, one directly observes angular speed, not linear speed. Any estimates?

    Here is a UFO that I once saw. I was traveling by airplane from Newark NJ to Ithaca NY in the winter, and I saw on the clouds a whitish spot that looked like a reflection off of a glass or clear-plastic pane. But there was no such pane in evidence, and my location was an unlikely one for such a pane. It would have to be huge. The spot sometimes flickered, but usually stayed constant in brightness. An extraterrestrial spacecraft following my plane? I decided that the clouds below my plane had an odd property: they had specular reflection in addition to diffuse reflection. I later found out that this was due to ice crystals in the clouds getting oriented as they fell. They have hexagonal symmetry, allowing them to have different optical properties in the horizontal and vertical directions. Others have seen this effect, and photographed it, and it is called a “subsun”. My UFO is thus an IFO, an identified one, though a relatively odd one.

  14. 16

    OMG! I forgot my UFO experience!

    In December of 2012 I went on to Israel on Birthright (I had very different political views at the time). On one of the days (in fact I think it was a Saturday), a couple of us went outside (from the hotel we were staying in), and just sort of… hovering… in the sky… a ways away… was a UFO.

    I don’t think it was extraterrestrial. This was Israel. I’m guessing it was an IDF helicopter or or plane or something like that. But it was very weird at the time. It seemed to just hang there, not moving, for the longest time.

  15. 17

    Always the skeptic. Even as a child; if you couldn’t prove it to me within a couple of minutes then I didn’t believe it.

    On the way home after Sunday School, I used to explain to the other kids why I thought the teacher was telling us lies.

    I remember how pleased I was (at about age seven) when I discovered that “Once upon a time” was code for “total bullshit”.

    I saw a UFO once (when I was about forty). Actually quite spectacular. Typical saucer shape with a display of lights running around the rim, giving the impression it was spinning. No idea what it was. I’d love to know but can’t even guess.

  16. 18

    Maybe not the same thing, but here goes:

    I lost one of my dogs a couple of years ago. It was bad; I was absolutely heartbroken for weeks and weeks after. That was what she meant to me. The day after she passed, I was walking up the driveway toward my garage, and I glanced up at the sky. There was this large, cloud right over my house. As soon as I looked at it, I noticed it was shaped remarkably like a dog laying prone. I mean, the one side looked like a head and it even had an extension coming out the other side that looked incredibly like a tail.

    It stopped me in my tracks. I stared at this thing for a while. Eventually, my relative asked what I was looking at. I just shook it off and said “nothing”. Didn’t occur to me to snap a photo of it. But I never forgot that. However, I dismissed it as a combination of coincidence that it happened the day after I lost her, as well as both my emotional state at the time and most likely, pareidolia.

    I mentioned it to a friend of mine some time later and she said “I don’t know! I think that could have been her letting you know she is OK.” I replied that I wasn’t convinced of that and it would take much more than a cloud to demonstrate that it wasn’t completely my brain playing tricks on me during a bad time. Still, I always think about it, but I can’t conclude it was anything but an ordinary cloud.

  17. 19

    As a kid I saw UFOs. In the night, I was looking out of my window and saw them. The road I lived on was rising and over the street there were 5 lights moving rapidly while always keeping the same distance from each other. This was before the advent of laser pointers, I should mention. They came back night after night after night. I firmely believed. Until I noticed something. If I watched for a long time, the lights would stop moving. Also, there were exactly five streetlights. And there was a glas painting hanging from my own windows. My UFOs were the lights of the streetlights that were reflected first in the glas painting and then in the window. Me sitting on then windowsill made the painting move and so did the lights.

  18. 20

    We are twinsies! I’ve had a character show up at work, and my main character is the voice in my head talking me through shit. I love them all dearly, even though I haven’t had time to write fiction lately and I know they’re all in my head.

  19. blf

    Whilst I’ve had the odd experience / sensation / post-factum surprise at times, due (I think) to a heavy dose of Asimov, Gardner, and other skeptic writers from a early age (and my father), I can’t say I’ve ever thought of any of them as anything other than “brains are bizzare”. Sadly, I’ve never seen the one “paranormal” event which seems to be real, ball lightening. (Being real it is not paranormal, albeit what it is is still mostly, I understand, a subject of conjecture.)

    Of course, I’ve been fooled by professional entertainers (magicians / illusionists), none of whom claimed to be doing anything other than skillful trickery / slight-of-hand…

  20. 22

    I was massively sceptical as a child (or perhaps just argumentative), to the point where I was never a believer in Santa nor the Easter Bunny, and was ambivalent on the issue of the Tooth Fairy for a while. However, there was one event that spooked me, and had me convinced that there was a ghost in my room way back when.

    I was simply nodding off to sleep one night when a felt a pressure on my …leg I think, as someone resting their hand there for a moment. That’s the entire event. It was enough back then to startle me, though the fear wore away soonish and my ‘spiritual, not religious’ mum and I agreed that it was the ghost of someone, maybe a late relative, looking out for me.

    Now that I am an adult and much more rigorous in my scepticism, I can say that there were certain telltales: a child of about 10, on the verge of sleep. It may even have been set off by perhaps a fold of my blanket settling a bit, but the young sleepy imagination did the rest.

    My mum still brings it up sometimes when talking about religion, souls, and similar; however, “you believed in ghosts when you were 10” doesn’t really carry much weight.

  21. 23

    For the record, I was pathetically gullible when I was a child. I loves “Touched by an Angel” when I was a little kid (now I see it for the crap that it is), and I actually thought the Irish woman was a real angel (I was a little kid here, remember) because of that episode where she revealed herself as one to a church. The concept of “special effects” didn’t exist to me at that time.

    Hah! Reminds me of when I was 7 or so, I still thought movies and such were real events. I became absolutely distraught when the horse in The Never Ending Story – Artax? something like that? – was sinking in a swamp. Never mind that I’d seen other characters in other tv shows and movies die, for some reason that horse got me going.

  22. 24

    Ah, if I had more time..

    Yeah. I’ve had some strange experiences too.

    Watching TV coverage of the Melbourne Cup (huge Aussie horse race) once and was so very sure that a certain horse was going to win – an instant feeling that just said “Yeah, that ones the winner!” and yet it wasn’t.

    A strange presence once at night that I was terrified by and was sure was a ghost – and so I wrote it a letter the next day, just some words on a sheet of paper asking it who it was and what it wanted – and never felt “it” there again.

    Winds that called my name and clouds that formed faces and ominous just presences and lights from headlights that I mistook for UFOs. As well as waking up camping one night and feeling sure the moon was just so very vividly yellow it had to have been hit and turned molten by an asteroid impact and yeah .. nope.

    Perhaps the strangest story of all that I wouldn’t be here at all but for its actually my mum’s story that she told us often as children and now and is apparently true* and something strangelysimilar happened with a family dog when w ewe heading out on holiday and he (a labrador cross) was really very upset and tried to tell us something before we got in the car -and an hour or so out of home we were involved in a car crash which wrote tehvehicle off although luckily no one was hurt. (Probably jst didn’t want us toleave, probably or ..)

    Still a rational skeptic although also still open minded to possibilities that maybe, just maybe we still do not know and maybe, just maybe – although probably not – there could be more to things than we think. I dunno.

    * This story :

    Saved by George – Non-fiction account :

    This is a true event that my Mum told me about. It happened in Adelaide during the summer of 1959. Like all M___ family pets, their middle aged black and white moggy, George, was loved and pampered. One evening about 6.30 some of the family went for a walk as they often did – my grandparents, Jack and Joy M____ together with my Mum, Barbara, aged thirteen and her sister Jenny aged eight. This time however, George did something he’d never done before – or ever would again – he followed them on their walk, meowing frantically all the time.

    Surprised and concerned, they slowed down and went back to check on George, asking if he was alright.
    “What is it, George?”, they asked, as he kept meowing away.

    “Why are you following us?” They walked on with George still following them and meowing, making them stop every now and then to see what was up with him and why he was behaving this way. They were at the corner of Old Belair and Mclaren roads when a there was a first distant but fast closing screech of tyres and engine, a blue car going too fast. It shot past, lost control trying to take the corner, bounced into the air and rolled. It threw out its driver and his passenger, who hadn’t been wearing seat belts. It barrel rolled again then slammed into a stobie pole. Which was exactly where they would all have been walking if George hadn’t been following them and making them slow down. George had saved all their lives.

    After the crash, Jack and Joy went to help the two men from the car; sending their daughters home where George was waiting for them on the doorstep having run back. The driver and his passenger were both shaken but not seriously hurt. It later emerged that they’d been speeding and drink driving.

    The big question is how did George know what was about to – or rather could have – happened but for his action? It couldn’t have been just his superb feline hearing because he’d followed them long before the car was ever close and was meowing as if to warn them. Moreover, never before or since did George ever accompany the family on a stroll. Did George, an otherwise ordinary moggy, have some sort of feline extrasensory powers of clairvoyance? I don’t know but I do know that without George’s strange behaviour that day, my Mother, her sister and my grandparents wouldn’t have survived.

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