Contrary to what the Discovery networks will tell you, paranormal investigation doesn’t mean pointing to something weird and automatically declaring it a ghost or an alien visitor. It does not mean walking around in the dark with night vision cameras and acting surprised at ever little noise issued from an abandoned hospital. That’s not scientific investigation, it’s assumption and showmanship. And it’s no fun, either.
The joke of shows like “Ghost Adventures” and “Ancient Aliens” gets old after a while. There is only so long you can laugh at a wild-haired dude blaming every calamity on the planet on extraterrestrials or watching a bunch of idiots bumping into each other and screaming in the dark. Seriously, there are better things to spend one’s time on!
A true paranormal investigation consists of finding a strange incident, carefully laying out the details, and testing hypotheses. The whole fun of the investigation is testing what could possibly be the cause of the strange phenomenon and hopefully explaining it. In most cases you’ll find a logical cause, though it may be rather mundane in the end.
Take what happened to my sister this last summer when she went to stay at my house during a family crisis. One evening she decided to take a shower. Now the only working shower in my house at the moment is in the mother-in-law quarters, which is connected to the main house by a series of porches, making for a long walk in the dark of night.
She was alone in the shower when she suddenly heard what sounded like someone blowing a raspberry on the closed door. This was followed a few minutes later by a strange jingling sound, sort of like the chirp of a phone. Thinking I was pranking her, she called out to me and got no response. She got out of the shower and checked the hall, only to find the place deserted. A very strong creepy feeling came over the place, as if she weren’t alone.
Freaking out from the experience, she ran back to the main house in a hurry. She demanded to know if I’d been playing a prank on her, but I had no idea what she was talking about. I’d been nowhere near the mother-in-law quarters when the incident occurred.
My sister and I left the investigation until daylight, both wanting to avoid the creepiness of the night. Besides, light was limited in that house after dark and we wouldn’t see very much. The next day I went over there but found no sign of the creepy feeling my sister reported, nor did I see anything moved or knocked over. Everything was just the way we’d left it.
I suspected that one of the noises heard that night issued from the mini-fridge in the kitchen, which was known for making high-pitched, rattling, bubbling sounds when it ran. So did the storage freezer near the bathroom. The mini-fridge started up at that point and the coolant pump jingled to life, confirming that the sound my sister heard was nothing more than a kitchen appliance.
The other part of the explanation was more elusive and took some time to surface. I suspected that our phantom farter was a rattle in the pipes, which can sound very much like someone breaking wind. Unfortunately, when the water was run again, no evidence of pipe hammer or air bubbles was heard. In fact, the water ran quietly through the pipes and the water heater, my second suspect, didn’t do anything unusual. We were left scratching our heads.
This part of the mystery was not solved for several days. One day, toward the end of her stay, my sister went back in the shower in an attempt to relax a sore neck and shoulder on the massage setting. She turned around in the narrow stall and her shoulder collided with the little shower rack that hung from the showerhead, which emitted a distinct farting scrape. We had finally located the second mysterious noise.
So what first appeared to be a paranormal prankster with a preference for potty humor turned out to be nothing more than a series of coincidences. We could easily have written it off as “ghosts” and left it at that, but that’s not fun. Sure, it turned out to be a series of mundane details, but we figured it out and were fascinated by the investigation. I’ve always enjoyed a good mystery, even one involving a farting bathroom door in the middle of the night.
There have been a lot of strange things that have occurred in my family, most of them even weirder than the bathroom incident. Way weirder! We’ve got ghosts stories, we’ve got UFO sightings, we’ve got supposed sasquatch encounters, and some things that I don’t even know where to begin. Some occurred to other relatives before I was even born, some I didn’t personally witness but heard about later, and others were my own experiences.
I’ve often wondered as to the causes of the various happenings and how they can be explained, so I’m starting a series in this blog to discuss said incident and try to explain them scientifically and rationally. I’m sure most have perfectly logical explanations and occasionally I will tell a story with the intent to try and find it. There is a reason for everything, a cause waiting to be hunted down. Can you figure out these mysteries?