CNN’s “expert” advice on ghost hunting

It is available here.

I will go through the main points and translate them into normalspeak.

First tip:

“Nighttime is good for ghost-hunting because the absence of noise, people, and other distractions of the day helps your sixth sense stay in tune with your environment.”

-Garrett Moffett, tour guide and author

If you are reading this, your ancestors were good at Hearing Things Go Bump In The Night. Earlier in human history, it was better in terms of survival and reproduction that someone be more sensitive to sensory input than to be indifferent. Those hominids were better at hunting prey and escaping predators, and they were able to pass on their genes more successfully than others. There was no evolutionary consequence for overreacting to a faint noise or something in one’s peripheral vision, but failing to react to such stimuli could have life or death consequences. Because our species has lived for so long as basically nomadic hunters and gatherers in the wild, there is an asymmetry in our psychological evolution where instant fear pays off in the historically wider sense where critical inquiry does not.

What I don’t understand about ghost stories is why this alternative story I just explained doesn’t seem to be catching on as more satisfying in just about every possible sense, because it really gets down to who we really are. Sure, we sometimes hear stories about the dead closing doors and turning lights on and off and stuff like that; but it’s so much more interesting to learn about why we find those kinds of stories compelling in the first place.

A tour guide in Savannah, GA named Roger Edgerly pretty much made the case for an evolutionary psychological explanation for allegedly paranormal claims himself, but doesn’t seem to realize that any possible explanation for his hauntings other than OMG ITS A GHOST are possible:

“You feel a presence, your hair stands on end, you hear sounds or feel a touch, and then you turn around and nobody’s there.”

That presence you feel is a false positive, and the reason your hair stands on end is because you appear to be larger when that happens.

So CNN’s “expert” advice is to wait until nighttime when you’re tired and more subject to hypnagogia. You will be surprised how many things you will see which you wouldn’t otherwise notice. And make sure to be somewhere very quiet, where every little noise and motion will make you jump. That’s right, we really do have souls and they survive our physical death in some form – but it just happens to manifest itself in this half-assed way that appears to be nothing more than people hearing things going bump in the night and pissing themselves over it like they were primitive cave dwellers or something.

“When I go to a historic (and therefore possibly haunted) spot, I’m fascinated and ready for anything. I believe the ghosts sense that you’re sincere, that you want to see them.”

-Robert Edgerly, tour guide

I find it very difficult to believe that, with all the wildly diverse types of human personalities just amongst people I happen to know, ghosts of all persons who have ever lived would cling so tightly to this particular personality trait of only wanting to make contact with people who already believe in ghosts. Isn’t there even one who wants to prove us smart-ass skeptics wrong? Houdini said that he would try to break through from the other side, at least to contact his wife. But he never did. Maybe he got distracted at a really great party in Afterlifeland. Or maybe all people go through some personality shift when they die so that they suddenly don’t want to prove the existence of ghosts anymore. But if that’s the case, it would be difficult to say how Harry Houdini could be said to be the same person he was when he was alive.

And why is it that only historic places are “therefore possibly haunted?” Don’t people who live boring and mundane lives get to become ghosts too? Why do all these hauntings have to be by someone with a tragic life and death? Why are some ancient and “historic” places haunted while average places aren’t? People die everywhere, so the distribution of ghosts and hauntings and whatnot should be more or less uniform. With all the white trash rednecks who have lived, you’d think at least one of these ghosts would have left an old Buick on cinder blocks on someone’s lawn by now.

“Digital recorders are a really good, basic tool. Cheap ones are great because they generate white noise, which spirits speak within.”

-Nick Groff, Travel Channel TV

Wow. Yeah, he really said that. Make sure to buy the cheapest audio recorders possible because the ones that don’t generate white noise and really do record what’s actually there don’t seem to pick up the “ghosts.”

This is an example of something you see often with these people. As they’ll tell you, ghosts and other alleged paranormal phenomenon are limited in the physical world in one way, but not others – and the distinction is made post hoc in order to justify the evidence as compelling even though it’s pure failure. On the one hand, ghosts can speak in an audible (and therefore materialistic and detectable) manner, but they have to do it through noise generated by cheap audio recorders. A psychic can tell you the color of a kidnapper’s hair, but they can’t give you an address where the missing child can be found.

“You’re not hunting rocks. You’re not hunting seashells. Provocation is very serious. Things can follow you home.”

-Zak Bagans, Travel Channel TV


Expecting “things” to “follow you home” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s vague enough that it could apply to pretty much anything, and so whenever you notice some “thing” – whatever that might be – and remember that “things can follow you home,” you’re likely to put the two together.

Anyway, if you’re really planning on hunting “ghosts,” try to incorporate a realistic perspective into the fun of being scared of things. And don’t be a jackass who does something stupid and hurts themselves, and don’t run to the media with every little anomaly that happens around this time of year with a “ghost story.” No matter how pro-establishment they might seem (like, for instance, CNN), there is apparently no depths to which they will not sink for “news” like this.


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