A couple of stories out of the UK are perfect examples of the media being totally non-critical in the reporting of ghosts.
Herne Bay, Kent is the home of septuagenarian Doris Birch who has been having struggling with a multi-armed nightly visitor.
“It’s like an octopus. It started four months ago. I was lying in bed when I felt this creepy pair of hands.
“I kicked frantically and it went away. Next time it came I hurled the duvet on to the floor!
“But the ghost keeps coming back. I’ve tried sleeping without the duvet. But it started shaking my mattress.
“I even threw the mattress off the bed and bought a new one but it has made no difference.
She called the Vicar and he recommended calling the Ghostbusters.
We contacted husband-and-wife ghost-hunters Ray and Beryl Herne from Central Parade to send the poltergeist packing.
Spirit medium Ray, a 52-year-old lorry driver, says he can draw the gross ghost into him while Beryl, 59, will envelope it in a “vortex of light” and send it to the “other side.”
Beryl said: “Sometimes spirits need to be here. There is usually a reason. Sometimes it’s family. Sometimes we have to alleviate some stress.”
Methodist Minister Hugh-Nigel Sheehan, 68, of Mortimer Street’s United Church, said: “I was approached by Mrs Birch but I fear I am not in a position to help. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
He didn’t try the exorcism route favoured by the Catholic Church.
“I have no expertise in this at all. I am neither a trained counsellor nor from a church with a tradition of exorcism such as the Catholic Church. It is very difficult to know how to respond.”
A little thought might have given him a better answer.
From the Daily Mail UK comes the story of a haunted child.
A father has told how his five-year-old son claims he has been troubled by visions of a ghostly man with grey skin who speaks to him in the night.
Dave Gerrity, 41, said his son Dagan first complained about seeing something in his bedroom in the family’s Bridlington home around six months ago.
Mr Gerrity said: ‘Dagan is scared about it. He cries about it. He’s told us that at night he can’t sleep because a man with grey skin comes and sits on his bed and keeps him awake talking to him.
The father tells of moving furniture and they neighbours complain of noises in the night from the other side of the wall. To add to the creepiness, a face has appeared in the wall.
Mr Gerrity told how guests to his home say they have also spotted the face of a man on the walls on the dining room of their three-storey house after it was re-plastered.
‘The wall was completely stripped back before it was plastered and there was nothing on it, no pattern.
‘But when the plaster was drying, we could see a face start to appear. Now there is a 6ft by 6ft face of a man on the wall.
In neither case does the reporter ask if there are any other possible explanations rather than the supernatural. In both cases, sleep disorders are much more likely than spirits, although alcoholic spirits can be the cause of sleep disorders. Much more likely in Ms. Birch’s case, I hope.
[HSP] is actually a symptom of a syndrome known as REM atonia, in which your brain awakens from a rapid eye movement (REM) state but your body is still unable to move. That seems a frightening position.
After all, you may be conscious of what surrounds you but your body feels paralyzed. Ordinary sleep paralysis is normal enough—when you sleep; your body releases hormones that keep you immobile enough in sleep to stop you from acting out your dreams. The hormones tend to wear off before your dreams end, and that allows you to awaken completely functional—even if you still feel a little groggy and would not mind another hour’s sleep.
Sometimes, however the fear persists. Sufferers also often feel the presence of another.
In hallucinogenic sleep disorder, persons who did not have bedmates and were experiencing the syndrome have reported feeling as though they were not alone in the room, often as not a kind of demonic presence. (Several cultures consider hallucinogenic sleep paralysis to involve demons or ghostly presences pinning down or taking over the body.) Some of these sufferers have described feeling as though another being was sitting atop them and possibly trying to suffocate them.
Perhaps something like this was affecting Pablo Pio.
Hallucinogenic sleep disorder lasts longer than normal sleep paralysis—eight minutes is considered average for the condition—and, while you may be unable to move or speak, you may still see what you were dreaming about and believe deeply that it seems real. Indeed, there are researchers who believe that reported sightings of unidentified flying objects or extraterrestrial alien life forms may actually have been testimonies from people suffering hallucinogenic sleep paralysis.
A visit to a doctor might be a better bet than calling in the psychics. Pareidolia is the obvious explanation for the face in the wet plaster. I don’t have enough information on the furniture moving around, but people have certainly made more outlandish claims to get their 15 minutes of fame. Taking a claim such as this at face value is not prize winning investigative reporting.
There are a large number of people who believe in the supernatural and there are a large number of charlatans willing to separate believes from their money. Stories like these add to their ability to bilk the gullible. Rather than blindly accepting stories, editors need to demand more from their reporters, and the reporters themselves need to exercise more critical thought.
I wasn’t there, but if I was, I would sure as hell asked more questions than either of these reporters.