A little over a week ago, I was aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California for Her Royal Majesty’s Steampunk Symposium. The ship has become famous as a “haunted attraction” and stories of ghost sightings are common, so it’s not surprising many of us spent time discussing ghost sightings that have occurred. I have even had an experience aboard the ship three years ago that I can’t easily explain which I documented at the Accidental Ghost Hunter’s Blog. Here we see the first class pool, which is often touted as the most haunted place on the ship, and was indeed where I experienced my own strange encounter.
Now, if you read the Accidental Ghost Hunter post, you’ll see that I consider myself a skeptic. Some people are often surprised when they discover I am both a skeptic and write stories about paranormal subjects such as ghosts and vampires. However, I really see no conflict. First of all, I’ve written and enjoyed stories about dragons and gryphons, even though I suspect most people will agree they don’t really exist. The folklore of mythical creatures is fascinating and the stories can provide insights into the human condition that might not be possible if they were rooted in reality.
That said, it’s also true that I don’t entirely dismiss the idea of ghosts. I’ve had experiences I found difficult to explain and I’ve heard compelling stories from others that make me wonder if such entities do exist. A couple of weeks ago, I came across a statement by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry which says, “Deniers are not Skeptics.” The statement articulates their position on climate change deniers, but I would argue it could be more broadly applied. After all, it’s just as irrational to deny something without evidence as it is to accept something without evidence.
Now, as pointed out in the CSI statement, Carl Sagan once famously said, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” I agree with that wholeheartedly. Proving ghosts—or any paranormal phenomenon for that matter—requires extraordinary evidence and such evidence simply hasn’t appeared. Even my own experiences don’t qualify since I can’t eliminate non-paranormal explanations for the events. I don’t believe the existence of ghosts has been demonstrated, but I don’t deny their possibility either.
As a storyteller, I find it very gratifying when something I write resonates with a reader, such as the time a construction worker admitted to being creeped out by the idea of vampires haunting the Rio Grande Theater as I described in Vampires of the Scarlet Order. He said he often felt like something was watching him from the balcony. I don’t think either one of us believed there really were vampires, but something about considering the possibility allowed us to connect and move on to a discussion about our fears and how they often prove to be unfounded.
So, have you ever had a strange experience you can’t explain? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.