I want to believe.

               Let us get one thing straight from the get-go. I DO have belief in the paranormal. And being the enthusiast that I am, and with many friends and family knowing of my interest, I have often been asked, “Why?” I then have to explain what I mean when I say “paranormal”. It can be a word that, when uttered in front of certain crowds, can conjure images of ghoulies, ghosties and long leggedy beasties and simultaneously convey the impression of something being “off” with the believer. Having been an advocate for the fringe since youth, I am use to the effects on one’s belief structure caused by the ridicule factor, both negative and positive. I have, over the years, compiled what I feel to be a compelling argument for, at the very least the possibility, of phenomena occurring in our world that cannot be explained with our current understanding of the way things work. To say that we, as humans, have this whole existence thing locked down is downright arrogant. And while I strongly agree with the use of empirical observation of the scientific method, I also feel that those who claim the empirical/scientific standpoint, all too often disregard the evidence presented to them. History has taught us that an open mind is what propels mankind forward. The ability to think outside of what we, as a whole, are able to fully explain or measure. It is the pursuit of knowledge and not necessarily the attainment of a complete understanding that makes us human. To ignore the possibility of the possibility of any phenomenon outside what is in the accepted realm of reality is simply put, ignorant.  Now this is nothing that hasn’t been said before. I just wanted to illustrate my viewpoint before I got into my topic. So, with that being said, I would like to state that yes, I do believe in the possibility of ghoulies, ghosties and long leggedy beasties. I also believe in the possibility of Boltzmann Brains, tulpas, little green men and tall hairy wood boogers. That brings us to the crux of the matter.

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Not that kind of wood booger…

 

                Belief is a tricky subject. When I set out to write this post, I decided to look up exactly what the definition is. My favorite is from Merriam-Webster’s and it states that belief is “[The] conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence.” There is almost beauty in both the simplicity and complexity of that statement. “Conviction of the truth”, these words alone can be confusing to some. The measure of one’s resolve towards any given “truth” can be a powerful force. But exactly how powerful can it be? Could it be powerful enough to say, wrongfully convict an innocent person with accusations of child abuse or involvement in satanic rituals? Unfortunately, yes, it can.

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©sketchblog

We the jury, find the shape-shifting warlock guilty of conversing with the Devil.”

 

 Most people are no strangers to the existence of false memories. That time you remember on that one road trip, your friends car broke down out in the middle of nowhere and you and all of your friends had to hitchhike back to civilization, when in reality, you never took that road trip for whatever reason, but have been told the stories and even retold the stories yourself to others, so many times, that you slowly nudged your way into the memory.  And according to a recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, false memories can affect us all. What do false memories have to do with belief? Simple. Memories can directly affect our examination of evidence. Circumstances usually related to supernatural events and encounters naturally tend to be high stress situations. Trying to remember something in a peaceful setting can be hard enough for some, but add an accelerated heartbeat, maybe straining of the eyes to focus in on that shadow just out of clear visibility and then add a shot of adrenaline from your fight or flight response for the cherry on top, and it’s understandable why one’s memory might be slightly off. Let’s not forget that false memories can be created in a calm, stress free environment let alone in a hectic, fast paced one.

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                                                                                         ©familymwr

“Get to the choppa! We’ll cover you! Don’t forget; LOWFAT milk!”

                So why would I bring this up? Am I going to try to make an argument that this could be a reason for some of the paranormal reports made by seemingly believable, reputable witnesses to be skewed? And maybe in some cases, completely fabricated? Of course I am. I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling myself “truly open-minded” if I didn’t. And anyone else, who also makes the claim, shouldn’t either. We as a society are becoming more and more aware how unreliable eye-witness testimony can be. That itself can be a very scary thought with very real implications.

                In the case of James Calvin Tillman, we have a man who was, based mainly on eyewitness testimony, wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for the crimes of kidnapping, assault, sexual assault and burglary in the town of Hartford Connecticut in 1988. How long did Mr. Tillman sit behind bars? He was incarcerated for eighteen of his forty-five year sentence before DNA evidence exonerated him of his accused crime. Who was the eyewitness that sent him behind bars? Regrettably, it was the victim of the crime who handpicked his photo and the identified him as the assailant in court. Here is a situation where the person who had the firsthand account, inaccurately described her recollection of the events of her experience. This is sadly more common of an occurrence than you may think.

 Regardless of the truth of whether or not an event happened, an eyewitness can compellingly recount that it did or did not with real emotions and conviction if they believe it.  Belief can be directly influenced by memory and as you’ve just read, memory can be a fickle thing. Now keep in mind that this information can be double-edged sword in that it is true for both believers and the skeptics. It really comes down to perception and the mind’s ability to make sense of the information that it is receiving. That is why believers and skeptics can witness the same event and have two different memories on what exactly happened. This can make a believer perceive something that may not have exactly happened, say perhaps witnessing an object flying off a shelf when really it may have just fell. This can also make a big “S” Skeptic instantly disregard certain details that may have happened in a truly odd experience, say maybe, witnessing an undiscovered, bipedal, North American primate and thinking that what they really saw was just a mangy bear.

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                                                                   © Jason Mouratides

If you made it this far… this is what you look like…

 

                Now since I don’t want your eyes to glaze over (if they haven’t already), I’ll wrap it up here even though I’m sure this topic could go on for quite some time, and in all likelihood, will show up again in following posts. So I’d like to leave you with this, a proposition to the reader, especially if you claim true open mindedness; if you are not already looking at both sides of the argument and all perspectives of the story, then maybe choose to expand your views to allow a complete examination of the evidence regardless of what you may or may not believe.

Follow me on Twitter @ForteanMindset

 

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9 comments

  1. Graham says:

    Fortean Mindset!

    Nice blog. It’s a complex subject… this believe stuff. lol.
    I have been thinking a lot lately about memory’s. For example, my memory of the UFO I saw in 1990 seems and feels exactly as it was when it happened. It does not feel like the memory has evolved or changed at all…… not to say that it hasn’t but it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it.
    At least I have the faint hope of confirmation from the others I was with during the sighting. I’m going to continue to try and get in touch with them to compare stories. It will be interesting to hear what they remember.
    On a slightly different note, I was chatting with a really good friend a while back… and I remembered his fiance and him seeing a fireball or meteor while driving home the night of their rehearsal dinner. And he didn’t remember it!! So, was it me or him?? I’m sure there was a sighting of something crazy that night. I asked him again last weekend when I saw him and he seemed to remember but didn’t seem to want to get into details. Or maybe he was just pretending to remember. lol.
    Graham

    1. Fortean Mind says:

      I’m glad that you both liked it. I’m pretty excited to be here as well. Graham, that’s interesting about your friend not remembering. The conspiracy theorist in me is shouting, “HE DOESN’T REMEMBER BECAUSE THOSE MEMORIES WERE ERASED!” but it’s probably something more mundane like he just doesn’t want to talk about it for whatever reason. I’m interested in learning what you find out.

  2. D-ron says:

    Great Start, Thanks for joining the team here @ Grimerica, I look forward to reading many more

    Darren

  3. paranormaljared says:

    Hey bud,

    Really good and well thought out posting. I liked reading it a lot and you definitely bring up some good points about how beliefs can be skewed by false memories. As an investigator and researcher of the paranormal myself (a very amateur one at that I’d like to add) I believe that though you respect and appreciate the eye witnesses belief, their views and experiences can very well be skewed by their own perceptions of reality and beliefs they have generated throughout their lifetime. That is why any REAL researcher/investigator worth his salt needs to go into any story with as non bias opinion as possible. No matter how hard we try (and I am an aspiring archaeologist who is being taught to not let my own perspectives in my culture conflict with other cultures I may not understand) it is next to impossible to go in with truly no bias to a situation. When you are left with the evidence that can not be explained away logically or by scientific method, you are left with solid evidence of a paranormal or supernatural happening.

    I will leave you with this however in response to your example of the big S skeptic and the believer seeing the same situation and perceiving it in two different ways. Is it possible, do you think, that when you learn to open yourself up to the possibility of other realms, other notions of reality and what could be,that you are capable of seeing what is really taking place around us each day, rather than what society has trained us (in this case the big S skeptics) to believe is real and not real. Perhaps by allowing yourself the freedom to believe that “The Truth is out there” (since we’re using X-files references here) you are tapping into a part of your mind that can perceive what those that are close minded can not. Just something to chew on. Great post, can’t wait to read the next.

    Jared

    1. Fortean Mind says:

      I’m glad you liked it! I will say this in response to your question: I am open to the possibility 🙂 It is easy to get bogged down in a certain way of thinking. So I try (and admittedly struggle occasionally) to see all perspectives on a topic and interpret the evidence that is not only presented to me, but what I find in research, to the best of my ability. So I also have to say that I am open to the possibility that society is right and that there is a possibility that the is NOTHING fringe that is taking place around us every day. And despite the bad taste that that last statement would leave in my mouth if I were to utter it out load, I nevertheless have to consider it an option. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

  4. Graham says:

    Hmmm… Interesting replies, both of you. Can’t help but comment.

    Jared. I like what you say about opening up to possibilities and how that may affect your perceptions. It makes sense to me, and in some ways it’s how I was feeling since starting the podcast that being too skeptical felt like it was limiting my possibilities. For example I am exploring many different “spiritual” experiences and if I went in to these not “believing” anything else is possible then that may limit my experience.

    Fortean Mind…. I have to challenge you on the “society” comment. I feel it’s the opposite and maybe it’s just semantics but I think Society in general “believes”. It’s the Institutional part of our culture that thinks there is nothing Fringe going on and is in denial.

    Thanks for participating chaps!

    1. Jared Grace says:

      Hey Graham nice of you to chime in 🙂 My comment was based largely on the belief that children are able to experience things more regularly because they have not been “trained” to believe that these things aren’t possible. It was just always something that seemed right to me and because of this I have routinely tried to “open myself up” in situations (such as visiting the Mark Twain House in Hartford Ct.) When visiting there a few months after “Ghost Hunters” on scifi had done an investigation (though it had not aired at that time) I got a tour of the house and was not feeling much of anything throughout the early half of the visit (though the house itself was amazing and the tour is more than worth going on). We arrived at the upstairs hallway leading down to the children’s room and I heard quiet footsteps and whispers..nothing too loud in fact I thought I was imagining it until the tour guide turned around and said to me directly (we had spoken of my love of the paranormal and being an amateur investigator prior to the tour) this is where TAPS recorded running and playing of what sounded like children. It was a small “win” if you will for me but it was something that I could validate for myself. This is what I am talking about when I say “opening yourself up” to situations. Some could call it self fulfilling prophecy but I would argue I had no idea that particular hallway was where the sounds were recorded and I truly felt nothing throughout the rest of the home during my trip. A small validation, but a validation nonetheless. Great conversation guys.

  5. “Belief is the enemy.” ~John Keel

    Sorry for the late comment, but this was a great way to start your blog, FM 🙂

    Have you seen the documentary Wake Up? I just saw it last weekend and found it really marvelous. I’d sure like to know your take on it.

    Saludos,

    RPJ

    1. D-ron says:

      i almost watched it the other nite, watched I Am again instead, on shrooms which made it infinitely more #powerful IMO. Pretty sure it changed Joey’s life, lol. I’m gonna watch it tonight now

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