Friday, September 16, 2011

Psychic and other Paranormal Phenomena

There have been huge numbers of psychic phenomena tallied throughout history.  Some are obvious fakes; some not so easy to disprove.  Of course, while predictions can be exposed as fakes by not coming true, it's a little more problematic if not impossible to prove them.  How many times does a prognosticator have to be right before it can reasonably be said they're actually foretelling the future?  What margin of error is acceptable?  I don't think anyone can even quantify this sort of thing, which is why we're no closer to understanding psychics and seers than we ever have been.

Nostradamus Statue, © Babak Farrokhi

Nostradamus (Michel de Nostredame, born either 14 or 21 December, 1503, died 2 July, 1566) was one of the first, and certainly more well known, prognosticators of the future.  He's been credited with predicting numerous events including the Great Fire of London, the political rise of Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler, both world wars, the Apollo moon landings, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and even the terror attacks of 9/11.

However, most academics say the majority of these prognostications of world events are the result of misinterpretations or sometimes deliberately inaccurate translations.  Many times the link between the events and the predictions is so weak, they hardly offer any proof of prognostication.  So, in spite of the cult status he's attained for predicting the future, we're still a long way from proving even the most famous seer ever had the ability.

Psychic Readings, © Adam Currell

Still, there is no lack of faith in the ability, or people who claim they have the ability.  Psychics are everywhere, and anecdotal experiences offering "proof" abound.  Much if this is fraud, or illogical leaps of faith due to cognitive bias.  Many times we as humans misinterpret correlation, and assign relationships based on what we want to believe instead of looking at things from a strictly objective standpoint.

Shadow Man Walking, © I K O via Flickr

Parapsychology research in some form or another has been around since 1889.  The term is used to include telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, near-death experiences, reincarnation, and apparitional experiences.

Fear, © I K O via Flickr

So what's my take on this?  Well, like many things, I'm decidedly undecided.  Neutral, one might say.  I think there may definitely be something to paranormal activity.  I say that with an ace card in the hole, as you'll see in an upcoming post.  We haven't produced any factual evidence proving any of it, however, which tempers my beliefs, but overall, I'd say there's at least something there.

I do know someone who seems to have some sort of precognitive aptitude.  She has correctly called a large, game changing play while watching football, whether from true ability or luck, who knows.  She's also been right on numerous other predictions, from the commonplace to downright astounding.  These, however, aren't what makes her predictions interesting.

They become a lot more interesting when observing her behavior before some of the more tragic, large-scale natural disasters we've seen in the world.  A number of times I've seen her jittery and worried, saying that something is terribly wrong, only to see a major earthquake or other natural disaster strike within days, or even the same day.  One of those times was Christmas Day, 2004.  She was horribly edgy, and said several times throughout the day that something was very wrong.  She paced the floor, irritable and worried the whole day, in spite of the fact it was Christmas.  "Something terrible is going to happen," she told me.  "I know it."  The next day we watched as tsunamis from an earthquake in the Indian Ocean crashed ashore, killing more than 230,000 people in fourteen countries.

Coincidence?  Quite possible.  It can't be proved, but on the other hand, it's certainly intriguing enough to make one pause for thought.  I'll share my own eerie experiences sometime in the future here, one of which is almost impossible for those involved to brush off as simply coincidence.  Stay tuned.  It's a wild one.

Until then, I'll leave it to you.  Any believers out there?  Any complete skeptics?  Let me know what you think.


  1. I do believe that some people have a deeper awareness of what's going around us than others and I think that can contribute to a sense of special knowledge.

  2. I believe that's definitely the case, Kelly. Growing up for part of my life in the Montana wilderness, I can say for a certainty I developed a much higher awareness of what was going on around me than almost anyone else, which caused me to notice things some might attribute to psychic ability.

    Some people are inherently better at it, though, which adds to the mystique. As far as actual psychic abilities... dunno.

  3. I'm not a complete skeptic. I'll concede, however, that unexplained abilities can and do exist.

    Nevertheless - I've long been fascinated by the paranormal. As soon as Wikipedia launched the feature that enables you to create PDF books, I spent hours compiling one on cryptids and another one on mythological creatures.

    Two "cryptids" fire my imagination more than most: the Jersey Devil and Spring-heeled Jack.

  4. Interesting you'd bring up the Jersey Devil, John. That's something so entrenched in lore they named their hockey team after it.

    I first heard of it when I was probably 12 or 13. I bought a couple of nature books on medicinal and edible herbs by Tom Brown. He mentioned it several times in the books, but I don't remember offhand just what he said about it, but I know the legend affected him to a large degree growing up.

    Cryptids are another fascinating area, and living in Bigfoot epicenter lends yet another perspective. Haven't seen him either, but I'm not ruling it out just yet.

  5. I do believe some of us have something alright. Some higher perceptiveness that can't be taught, just lived. Your post was interesting and spooky. It must be difficult for the person you mentioned to live "those moments" of being on edge for no immediate reason.

  6. Thanks, L.A. It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, yea, it gets a bit interesting. Some folks seem to have "it" and some don't. I'd imagine we're going to be a lot closer to understanding whatever it is once we distinguish what makes these individuals different from others.

  7. Interesting. I don't know whether I believe in those abilities or not, but as someone who believes in God, I wouldn't put it past Him to give people those insights into the future, at the very least so that someone is prepared. How useful it is, I don't know, but I'm a finite being (who I believe is) in the midst of an infinite universe. Metaphorically, no literally infinite. :)

  8. Giles, Religion always puts an interesting twist into this topic, because at the core of most religions, and western ones in particular, one automatically believes the existence of the supernatural. This being said, most folks who do disbelieve several other aspects of it.

    I think it's much easier to accept this kind of thing in fiction, because you are already suspending a certain amount of belief because you're reading something that's made up. Of course, one's views do affect how they react to fiction as well.