Joe Nickell is a former magician who traded in his magic tricks decades ago in favor of the role of debunker of all that is paranormal. He’s associated with the Skeptical Inquirer magazine and the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly known as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal–CSICOP).
I call Nickell a debunker rather than a skeptic, because clearly he is driven by his belief in the non-existence of the paranormal and is incapable of admitting that some things are not so easily explained by a rational, reductionistic perspective.
Now in his book The Science of Ghosts, Nickell tells us that the only thing that so-called ghost hunters are detecting is themselves. ”If they go through a haunted house and stir up a lot of dust, they shouldn’t be surprised if they get a lot of orbs in their photographs,” he said in an interview last October.
He doesn’t have anything better to say about mediums and their connections with spirits. ”The people who profess to be able to talk to the dead tend to be either fantasy-prone personalities, or charlatans, or possibly a bit of both,” Nickell declared. “They would be harmless if they didn’t mislead so many people.”
So it’s not surprising that Mr. Nickell and his colleagues at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry were quite perplexed by the results of a poll they sponsored that was aimed at comparing educational levels with the belief in ghosts. Their survey in 2006 found that the more educated you are, the more likely you are to believe in ghosts and other paranormal phenomena. Contrary to expectations, a poll of 439 college students found seniors and grad students were more likely than freshmen to believe in haunted houses, psychics, telepathy, channeling and other mysterious phenomena.
Oops! It wasn’t supposed to happen that way. But then, contrary to what the skeptics tell us is real – or rather what is not real – stands a sizable percentage of the American public.
Nearly half of Americans say they believe in ghosts, according to a 2012 HuffPost/YouGov poll. Of the 1,000 adults interviewed Dec. 17-18, the poll revealed 45 percent believe in ghosts, or that the spirits of dead people can come back in certain places and situations.
Those results nearly mirror a CBS News 2009 poll, which showed that “nearly half of Americans say they believe in ghosts, or that the dead can return in certain places and situations.” That poll also revealed that 78 percent of Americans believe in life after death.
The skeptics’ response to these polls? In a word, “Scary!”
The photo at the top is the famous ‘Brown Lady,’ a photo taken in 1936 at Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England. The one below is a photo I took behind the home of Joe and Nancy McMoneagle, south of Charlottesville, Virginia.
HAPPY 24th BIRTHDAY, MEGAN!!!