As a freethinker and skeptic, I am naturally skeptical of claims about ghosts, hauntings, poltergeists, demons, etc. I just haven’t seen any good evidence to prove the existence of any of those things. I used to watch various ghost hunting shows with one of my old roommates, and I remain unconvinced. They always go into a “haunted” location with expectations about what they are going to find, and lo and behold, they find it! Homeowners says they see a ghost of a little girl? Wow, that unintelligible sound they recorded is actually a female child’s voice saying “hello!” Definitely not confirmation bias, right? They’re visiting a defunct insane asylum where old men were tortured? Look! A thermal image of a tall male figure! Couldn’t possibly be the body heat of one of the men on our team! Must be a spirit!
Just once I want them to go into a building and do a cold reading. Don’t talk to the owners first, have no idea of what to expect, then produce findings that match the previous reports of paranormal activity. Make sure the whereabouts of the whole team are accounted for at all times, no outside sources are causing the strange sound/light/movement/temperature change, and, you know, use real scientific methods. I’m willing to bet that they find boy ghosts in houses where people usually see little girls, and they have all sorts of wild findings in places where no strange activity was previously reported.
However, as much as I know these paranormal things likely don’t exist, I still can’t help but be frightened by scary stories- especially this time of year. I won’t watch scary movies by myself or on nights where I know I have to sleep alone, because I get extra scared when I’m alone. Safety in numbers, you know? It’s not logical; my brain knows full well that stories are just stories and ghosts aren’t real. But, I can’t help it. My natural reaction to freaky things is to be freaked out.
Even worse than the over-the-top scary movies/stories are the things that are real, could very well be plausible, or are presented in real life settings even if the details are clearly fiction. Take for example the movie “Paranormal Activity.” As already discussed, I don’t believe in demons, hauntings, etc, but damn if I wasn’t scared silly by that movie. Supposedly normal people, in a supposedly normal house, showing supposedly real home video footage of crazy shit happening? Freaky! Ugh- that scene where the girl climbs out of bed and just stands there staring at her sleeping boyfriend for a couple hours then climbs back in bed- I’m getting chills just thinking about it now!
Just the other night I was hanging out with some SSA folks and we got on the topic of “unexplained” events that have happened to us. I told the story of my “band aid bandit,” where a couple days after I moved into my apartment earlier this year I came home to find a few books and papers moved around, a personal item missing from my bedside table (use your imagination here), and 2 boxes of band aids missing from the top shelf in the bathroom. Nothing of value was gone- tv, Wii, laptop, iPod were all where I left them. At first I tried to tell myself maybe my cat moved these things, but it really isn’t possible. Especially with the band aids- I just don’t see how she could get up to that shelf and move only those 2 boxes without disturbing any surrounding items. I’m fully convinced that someone was in my apartment and for whatever reason only took a few items of very little value. I promptly had my locks changed, bought some pepper spray and reinforced my sliding glass door and haven’t had any problems since.
My anecdote was followed by a story someone had read of a guy living in Japan who noticed that his food was going missing. He thought he was being burgled, so he set up surveillance cameras only to find out that it was a homeless woman who had been living in his cupboard for a year. A year! After he would leave home, she would climb out, take showers, eat foot, and climb back in. At the time this story was told to me, I wasn’t sure if it was true or not, but it seriously scared me. (I googled it the next day, and it’s actually true! That makes the scary factor even worse!)
There were some other stories about creaky stair cases and nuclear bomb victims that night as well. I ended up staying at this gathering about an hour later than I originally intended because I didn’t want to go home to my empty apartment that was clearly going to have cabinets full of hiding people. When I finally did walk back to my apartment, I was checking behind me about every 4 steps to make sure there was nothing scary in the shadows, then I turned on lots of lights and carried around my pepper spray until I got into bed, where I couldn’t fall asleep because the cat kept making startling noises in the other room. I’m 24, I swear!
So I’ve been thinking about why I’m so damn jumpy, and here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: I blame evolution, society, and anxiety. To some degree, “fight or flight” fear emotions are a natural human reaction to being startled. A strange noise in the bushes might be a lion about to eat my ancestor and it’s good to be wary of the unexplained just in case. I’m also a woman, socialized into a society that tells me to trust nothing and no one or I’ll get raped and murdered. Add those together with the fact that I’m naturally anxious anyway, and you get my over reaction to all things frightening.