Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The naked and the dead

Do you believe in ghosts?  Would you rather not wear any clothes?

Do you want to combine the two?

Apparently there's a subset of ghost hunters who think that's a great idea.

You might wonder what on earth could generate this idea.  Here's how Paul Cagle, writing for The Aenigma Project, describes it:
Some people believe that certain spirits feed on negative emotions and therefore when you are scared you give them more power to manifest.  Could this be part of the reason?  Being naked in a dark place, unable to see anything around you and searching for ghosts could certainly create feelings of uncertainty and perhaps inadequacy.  But is that enough negative juju to cause something to manifest?  Does feeling vulnerable and embarrassed generate the same energy as being anxious and scared?  Is enough negative energy generated no matter the emotion?
This strikes me as a little weird, even if you accept the fundamental proposition that there are spirits of the dead still hanging around.  Isn't the point that they appear where they want to, for their own reasons?  I always thought the idea was that ghosts tended to hang around where they died, or places they liked when they were alive, and so forth.  If they were attracted to naked people, you'd think that nudist colonies would be rife with ghosts.

It would also make me much less likely to use my hot tub.

[Image licensed under the Creative Commons Gallowglass, Medieval ghost, CC BY-SA 3.0]

Now, it's not that I have anything against nudity per se.  I've always been pretty comfortable with skin showing, and in my twenties, I would have been captain of the Coed Skinnydipping Team.  Even now, I tend to wear the legally permissible minimum amount of clothing.  I remember the subject of my running around all summer without a shirt came up while we were chatting with friends, and I said, "I guess I'm kind of a closet nudist."  My wife gave me the slow single-eyebrow lift, and said, "Closet?  Kind of?  You guess?"

On the other hand, I'm not sure how I feel about prowling around a graveyard in the middle of the night without any clothes on.  I'm not so much worried about scandalizing the inhabitants, given that by definition, they're dead.  My general opinion is that the evidence for hauntings and the afterlife is fairly slim, although I have an open mind on the subject -- and in any case, if ghosts want to kind of ooze around the place and appear unexpectedly, they can't reasonably expect not to be shocked at what they see on occasion.  I'm more concerned by the fact that most ghost hunting seems to occur at night, for what reason I have no idea, and around upstate New York the nights are either (1) cold enough to freeze off body parts you might still have a use for, or (2) warm and muggy and buzzing with mosquitoes.  Not very enticing either way.

It also brings up the question of whether ghosts themselves are naked.  You usually don't hear about naked ghosts -- they seem to favor antiquated and/or filmy garments that swirl about in a dramatic fashion -- but it's a little strange to consider why that is.  Do they appear in the clothes they died in?  If so, I'm going to be a hell of a lot more careful about what I wear, because I don't want to take the chance of spending eternity in a ratty tank-top and a worn pair of cargo shorts.  Or are ghosts clothed in the garments they liked best?

If that's the case, I'm putting in my request for a kilt in the afterlife.  I've never owned a kilt but I think they're wicked cool.  If I could have a claymore to go with it, that'd be even better.  Then I could really scare the shit out of any naked ghost hunters who showed up.

I'd be interested in hearing if anyone has a better perspective on naked ghost hunting.  I'm pretty curious about the afterlife, and while the skeptical part of me figures that at some point I'll find out one way or the other, it'd be nice to hear from experts.  Clothed or not.


Aptly enough, considering Monday's post about deciphering scripts, this week's Skeptophilia book recommendation is Steven Pinker's brilliant The Stuff of Thought.  Here, experimental psychologist Pinker looks at what our use of language tells us about our behavior and neural wiring -- what, in fact, our choice of words has to do with human nature as a whole.

Along the way, he throws out some fascinating examples -- my favorite of which is his section on the syntax of swearing.  I have to admit, the question, "Just what does the 'fuck' in 'fuck you' actually mean?" is something I've never thought about before, although it probably should have given that I'm guilty of using the f-word a lot more than is generally considered acceptable.

So if you're interested in language, the human mind, or both, this is a must-read.  Although I'll warn you -- if you're like me, it'll leave you thinking, "Why did I just say that?" several times a day.

1 comment:

  1. The only part of this matter that makes any sense whatsoever is that the phenomena under discussion here is usually linked to extremely stressed out individuals that have really poor coping mechanisms. But even more relevant is the link to the individual being either seizure prone or epileptic while being hypersensitive to localized electromagnetic/geomagnetic fields. When then likely occurs is what's referred to as inductive resonance coupling between the individual and said environment. Lots of variables at work here, but it should be pointed out that while most poltergeist agents are either epileptic or seizure prone, most people who are seizure prone or epileptic are NOT poltergeist agents. This is unilateral equation at best. This what half a century of research strongly suggests is going on.