Pam Ziobron, Deep River Public Library (Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant / 4/16/10)I’ve blogged before on the “hauntings in the news” trope. I’m amazed that reporters these days can’t seem to find anything better to report on. It’s nothing more than “make-news,” or stuff they crank out in order to take up space in the paper. This morning’s example comes from the venerable Hartford Courant (WebCite cached article):

Odd things are happening at the Deep River Public Library.

Staff member Pam Ziobron was working by herself late one Saturday. She had shut off all the lights except for the one at the circulation desk, where she was standing, when she had a strong sense that she wasn’t alone.

“It was just a feeling. … It was just so light and airy, like a female coming down the stairs. It was very, very real,” Ziobron said.

Oh well. I guess there’s no question about it, then. Whenever you get those “feelings … like a female coming down the stairs,” then it can’t possibly be anything else, now, can it?

The article goes on to cite a couple of “haunting” stories in the Deep River library, none with any better evidence than Ziobron’s. It also goes on to cite a presumed expert on the subject:

Michael Dionne, founder of Full Spectrum Ghost Hunters, said that about 1 percent of the cases he investigates are paranormal.

And of course we know Dionne can’t possibly be wrong about that, because … well … he makes a name for himself going around talking about the paranormal and electromagnetic fields and all. Right?

Wrong. These ad hoc, self-appointed “experts” have no objective, verifiable basis for any claim they make. Yet the Courant — which has the distinction of being Connecticut’s newspaper of record — touts one such person as having indisputable veracity.

Sheesh. What bilge. Get with it, Courant, and report some news, not useless tripe like this.

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  • EOSmom

    I guess that you can easily twist things out of context in your rants right. You're entitled to your opinions – YES! just as we are entitled to ours! The courant did a story on something other than MURDERS and our SHIT of an economy! Is that so bad!? And, you sit here and bash mr. Dionne for saying that only about 1% of cases are truly haunted…Why is that bad? He could have easily said – THERE ARE GHOSTS EVERYWHERE! And, never did Michael say anything about being an EXPERT – and he clearly stated that he is objective! So, before you go bashing people you don't know – read the story! And, I love how you conveniently cited only portions of the story to make your illegitimate point about him! He's not out to make a name for himself at all! In FACT, he does this because he's interested in finding the "truth" which is relevant none-the-less. HE takes what he finds with a grain of salt! So, in your rant here – it's obvious that you're just going off (like so many other angry anti-paranormal people) on someone you don't know – acting like an expert on him! I guess that makes you a HYPOCRITE!

  • PsiCop

    Thanks for the comments.

    First, I agree the Courant should report more than stabbings and accidents. They should be investigating official and corporate corruption, and lots of other things. But that takes too much work. So they basically work off the police blotter and on whoever comes their way looking for free publicity. The mass media, the Courant included, is dismal — and that goes beyond just the "hauntings in the news" trope. I've been blogging on that for a long time. If you'd bothered to read some of my other material, you would have known that. Try this, and this, for starters. For another specific failure by the Courant, try this.

    Second, by what metric has Mr Dionne arrived at his 1% figure? What objective, verifiable criteria has he used to calculate it? My problem with this statement is that he has no basis for making it! In other words, it's bullshit. He made it up.

    Third, if it's true that "ghosts are everywhere," then why have I never met one?

    Fourth, as for declaring people "experts," the Courant clearly wanted to impress readers with Mr Dionne's expertise. He must have presented himself to the Courant reporter as an "expert," because otherwise the Courant would not have selected him to quote as their "expert" in the story.

    Fifth, your claim that I didn't read the story is obviously contradicted by the fact that I quoted it, in more than one place.

    Sixth, Mr Dionne is not interested in "the truth," because "the truth" is that there are no such things as ghosts. As for myself, I am always interested in "the truth." If he has compelling, objective, verifiable evidence that he alone possesses "the truth," I challenge him to share it. But it can't be the usual crap that paranormalists usually offer, like photographs that can be double-exposures or voice recordings that are not clear enough to comprehend.

    Seventh, I have personally known more than one "paranormal investigator." I know that there are NO objective credentials in that field; there are NO objective criteria for how they work; they have NO objective metrics to base their conclusions on; and there is, in short, NOT ONE THING about what they do which is the least bit objective or verifiable. My experience with "paranormal investigators" does, in fact, make me an "expert" as to the amorphous, indefinite, and subjective nature of their work. It's all made up, and it's a joke.

    You and Mr Dionne may not like that, but it's the truth.

  • EOSmom

    Sir, it's your truth! That's the problem with this subject…it's very controversial! Your truth is not our truth! I can't agree with all you say, but I can see where you're coming from…I just hated hearing you talk about my husband like this! you make him sound like a FOOL! And, to be honest, it upset me…So, go on and do what you do…I just had to let you know – that it's YOUR truth! We feel differently! Do you have UNDENIABLE evidence they DO NOT exist? NO! Just because you haven't experienced it or seen it – doesn't mean it doesn't exist! I've never seen jupiter – but I know it exists…how do I know that those pictures of outer space are not fabricated!? Seriously… (that's a metaphoric phrase by the way – just an example..) I just hate when people think they KNOW it all! I can't stand when people like you find the need to complain about everything that is said…I have a friend like you! And, it's disturbing…

    Oh, and that 1% – sure, it was pulled out of his ass – but, he was just protecting himself – it is a LOW number…Not all claims of activity are paranormal! We're not that type! We look for scientific evidence…though I know that means NOTHING to you! I really don't want to get in this with you – I have no energy after today! people are just so damn negative! I CANNOT STAND IT!

    • PsiCop

      That a subject is controversial, is not license to make stuff up about it. As for "truth," it is not the case that "truth" can be different for different people, as you suggest. If it were, the sky would be red for me, and maybe pink for you, and maybe green for someone else. Since that's not the case, and since the sky is blue for everyone, this shows there are some "truths" that all people have in common.Asking for "undeniable evidence" that something does not exist, is irrational and makes no sense. Can you produce "undeniable evidence" that an invisible, silent unicorn isn't dancing around in my backyard? If not, then you must believe he's there … right?Oh and, thanks for admitting the "1%" figure was fabricated … which is exactly what I'd suspected.If it's "scientific evidence" you want, you need to apply the scientific method to your work. That starts by not insisting ghosts are "real," without regard to any other known facts.Finally, complaining that I am merely being "negative" — and implying that it's somehow "bad" to be skeptical — isn't going to work on me. Your subjective value judgement (i.e. that I'm "negative") carries no weight; and there's nothing wrong with skepticism that cannot be overcome by a pile of objective, verifiable evidence.

  • EOSmom

    ..Wow…you are the most closed minded person I have ever met! – There's just no room in your irrational head – so, talking to you about this anymore would be a complete waste of my time – I agree to COMPLETELY disagree!

    • PsiCop

      If by "closed-minded" you mean "not automatically willing to believe everything that anyone tells me," then no, I am most certainly am "closed-minded," and am proud to be so. I assume you meant the term as some kind of insult, but I don't take it that way.

      You can complain at me all you want, but if you wish me to believe in ghosts, the burden is on YOU to demonstrate their existence, using objective, verifiable evidence. The burden is not on ME just to take your word for it, merely because you think it's so. So far all you've done is castigate me; you could, alternatively, have completely disarmed me and changed my mind, by offering me the evidence I've urged you to provide.

      BTW you'll note that, in spite our disagreement, I haven't deleted your comments. They remain here for the planet to see, and will remain here. So vilify me, if it makes you feel better, with subjective value judgements like calling me "closed-minded" … but at least I respect your views enough to leave them here, unedited.

  • EOSmom

    (1) ps. I meant it in its most literal term – not sarcastic… being closed minded (in my opinion, means that no matter what ANYBODY offers up as evidence – you're completely closed off to the subject..that is what I meant…..

    (2) It's not a BURDEN! We do this because we ENJOY IT! HOBBY – not full time job…

    (3)why would I provide evidence…? I have it – but, you'll DISCREDIT it, and even belittle me for showing you!

    (4) And, I'm sure you're a good person – but, I am just upset with the way you portrayed my husband..that was my ONLY problem! You speak in a very derogatory manner… I have respect for others opinions…As I stated earlier I have a friend like you – and he and I discussed the paranormal before…we joked at each other…never once did he bash me or my husband in a derogatory manner.

    THAT my friend was my only problem.

  • EOSmom

    another thing I want to point out – is that my husband is a skeptic…the difference is that he has an open mind to the possibility. Even with "evidence", he will say "it's unexplainable". NEVER "It's a ghost". He's very adamant about that. That's why I got upset…he's not a show pony – he's not a fame hoc… he's a regular guy, a husband, and a father who just wants answers because for TWO YEARS our little girl (Starting at 16 months old) was terrified (and we have it on video) of a "man" which we could NOT see! She would run screaming that "Man" was in her room! She would cry saying he was pulling her arm. And, since she has been able to verbalize it – it's not happening…BUT has not forgotten..she says things like "he disappeared". She was not making it up. My daughter even got her tooth knocked out because this man scared her so bad at 5:30am once, she came running into our bedroom SCREAMING and tripped into our bedpost… This is very real to us! She was at her Godmother's house, and kept pointing to one side of a bedroom saying "What's her name?" .. they said Who.. and she says "that girl! right there! What's her name." Then she said she disappeared. She was SERIOUS and frustrated that nobody could tell her that girl's name. Now I KNOW this is NOT evidence. It is personal experiences…none of which we can validate, because it is the words of a little girl. HOWEVER – these instances are what prompted my husband to FIND ANSWERS! I'm not sure if you're a father, or know children – but at 16 months old, fear is fear! And my daughter was afraid of a MAN we could not see! Explain that! My husband wants to know if it's a possibility! He is a credible guy – just looking for answers! He is NOTHING like what you made him out to be. THAT IS ALL! 🙂 Please understand – I was upset…

  • PsiCop

    1. You will not believe this but I am not "closed off from any subject." I learn new things all the time … and am eager to do so. I have taught myself a great deal, in my life. If I were truly "closed to learning anything," I would not have been able, for example, to teach myself Greek … or anything else. I did not get where I am by refusing to learn anything. Again, your definition of "closed-minded" appears to be "refuses to take my word for everything I say merely because I say it." Sorry but that isn't going to cut it.

    2. By "burden," I refer to your "burden of proof." You are ordering me to believe something. That places a burden on you … to prove what you say. You either can either do so, or not. Your choice entirely. If you refuse to live up to the burden then you have no right to demand that I believe you, for no other reason than that you demand it.

    3. You SAY you have evidence of ghosts. But because you assume I will not accept it as what you say it is, you refuse even to offer it. Sorry but I am not stupid enough to grant you, in advance, an absolute carte-blanche guarantee that I will accept whatever "evidence" you offer. It is, in fact, juvenile to demand this of me (or anyone else) up-front. A mature adult would simply present the evidence, and let me accept it or not. If it's as compelling as you say, then you have no rational reason not to let it speak for itself.

    4. Again, the point of my blog entry is that the Courant is wasting its, and its readers', time. Your husband is, I'm sure, sincere in his beliefs. The problem is that, first, CT's newspaper of record is wasting its time on "hauntings" when there are other, better, things to report on; and second, the reporter just relayed what your husband said, uncritically. This story is fundamentally BAD journalism. Again, this criticism of mine is independent of your husband … and goes way beyond "hauntings in the news." If you read my other blog entries on journalistic failures (such as I provided you in my comment #2) you will see I'm ecumenical in my hatred of stupid journalistic tropes … I reject them all.

    5. May I suggest that, if your husband doesn't want to be criticized for being a self-appointed expert in something, that perhaps, he not seek out publicity at all? Being publicly active means taking heat sometimes. It comes with the job. You can call what I say "derogatory," however, you have not yet refuted any of the factual claims I've made.

  • PsiCop

    You and your husband appear to have trouble with the definition of "skeptic." He uses it to mean he's "skeptical" about any given situation. That, however, is not what it is. To be a "skeptic" is a philosophical position that one adopts at all times, not just at a few times. You and he really out to read The Skeptic's Dictionary to get an understanding of what the word means.

    Your husband fails to be a "skeptic," by dogmatically accepting that ghosts exist. Despite having no objective, verifiable evidence that they do. (And evidence that you claim exists — but refuse to divulge — is inseparable from non-existent evidence.)

    As for your child, lots of children claim to "see" things/people/etc. which are not actually there. It's not unusual, and it doesn't mean they're mentally ill or anything. It's a phenomenon that psychologists know about and study. It's normal, and there's nothing wrong with it. But it also does not mean there is some metaphysical entity there.

    Unfortunately this means your husband may have gone on a wild goose chase. I can't do anything about that. What I can say is that refusing to admit your child may have fallen prey to a normal phase of childhood … i.e the "invisible friend" phenomenon … and deciding there MUST have been SOMETHING there, instead, is just not rational.

    The truth is that lots of people see, hear, and feel things, which are not actually there, but which are — for any number of reasons — emotionally very "real" to them. That these people believe these things to be "real" because they "felt" real, does not mean they were. It means they were fooled … either by their own wishes, by human psychology, or even by physiology. What separates the "skeptic" from the "true believer" is a willingness to accept that feelings may be real, but they are not facts. Veracity is not emotion. Belief is not truth. Skeptics consider veracity to be something that takes time to discover; it is testable; and is verifiable. (In fact the two words "veracity" and "verifiable" come from the same Latin root, veritas, meaning "truth.")

  • EOSmom

    I didn't even read the rest – I have to ask you first – when did I "order" you to believe? THE ONLY thing I did was correct your wrongful portrayal of my have the right to believe what you want – I never force my beliefs on anyone… I can argue my side…but, you have the right to be a non-believer!

  • PsiCop

    You told me that ghosts exist and that "THERE ARE GHOSTS EVERYWHERE." That statement is absolute. It leaves me nothing to do but accept it. I interpret that as an order to believe, because it grants no alternative. If you had meant to say, instead, "I believe that ghosts are everywhere," you certainly could have said that … and in that case I'd have had room to disagree. But you granted me none.

    And I'm glad you've conceded my right not to believe in ghosts. This country is already chock-full of people who presume to know what I must believe … like Sarah Palin … and we certainly don't need any more of that.

  • EOSmom

    What factual claims have you made? We must just end this back and forth – it's getting ridiculous because we both stand strong in what we believe – and should just respect that of each other. This is just getting to be too much. I will post the links to the EVP's that were caught in our home with a digital voice recorder. The first one – it was placed on top of the washing machine two rooms away from where the investigators were sitting. You can faintly hear the investigator say "Nate, is that you?" – then as clear as day (WITH NOBODY IN THE ROOM – there is PROOF of this, as there was a camera pointed in that room the entire time!) You hear a man's voice say clearly "NATE". How can you explain this one away? THERE was NOBODY IN THE ROOM! But, I'm sure you'll find a way to discredit it. But, you're so adamant on hearing it because you keep bringing it up! I honestly figured it would be a waste of time, as you are so stuck on NOT believing. the 2nd one is self explanatory. – as you're listening you hear a response "Hell No" –

    skepticism (uncountable)

    (US) The practice or philosophy of being a skeptic.

    (US) A studied attitude of questioning and doubt

    (US) The doctrine that absolute knowledge is not possible

    (US) A methodology that starts from a neutral standpoint and aims to acquire certainty through scientific or logical observation.

    (US) Doubt or disbelief of religious doctrines



    and you said "Truth takes time to discover". We're trying to discover the TRUTH.

    Look, because we have such differences of beliefs here, this is never going to go anywhere. I seriously don't want to make myself look like an ass either. I'm an educated woman, mother, wife, photographer who happens to believe in ghosts. This does not make me "dumb" (for lack of a better word). I just wish that people who didn't believe would just let us do what we do – if it's a waste of time or a wild goose chase – than that is our business. It's not hurting you in any way! It's annoying the hell out of you obviously that someone could believe in such "nonsense". However, we enjoy it! SO WHAT! We work, we take care of our children, we're law abiding citizens who pay our taxes. What the hell is the difference if we hunt ghosts…again, it's our business. So, I understand what you are talking about with the journalism aspect…and just so you know – my husband is not SEEKING fame…he answered a couple questions – whether or not that is news is also an opinion. People who are interested in this may actually enjoy reading that story. It's objective.

  • PsiCop

    What facts have I presented?

    Fact: Ghosts do not exist.

    Fact: "Paranormal investigators" are not credentialed by anyone. Any person, anywhere, any time, can claim to be one, and there is no way to say s/he isn't, because there are no requirements for the job.

    Fact: "Paranormal investigators" do not follow any established procedures. They do whatever they want, when they want, based on whatever they decide to do at the moment.

    Fact: Voice recordings and photographs are easily faked or manipulated … especially with the help of computers, which are now ubiquitous, with free, widely-available software which is more than adequate for the purpose (e.g. GIMP and Audacity.

    Fact: Skepticism does not mean automatically assuming everything everyone says is true, until it's proven otherwise. It means something very different — the opposite, in fact.

    Fact: If you wish me to believe "ghosts" exist, it is YOUR job to demonstrate it. Not mine to just take your word for it.

    Of course this is never going to go anywhere. You keep making claims that are demonstrably not true … such as that skepticism means having to take everyone's word for everything in every case. When even basic dictionary definitions are not good enough for you, there can be no communication.

    You and your husband are free to hunt ghosts, if that's what you want to do. I am free to consider it a waste of time and effort, however.

  • EOSmom

    OK! You're wrong! not ONCE did I say ghosts exist everywhere! Go back up and read my first comment where I clearly state the following! AND I QUOTE!!!!!

    "He could have easily said – THERE ARE GHOSTS EVERYWHERE! And, never did Michael say anything about being an EXPERT" basically referring to the 1% of cases – and I do NOT want to get back into that with you again! But, THAT, sir IS WHAT I SAID! Therefore, your statement about me FORCING YOU TO BELIEVE is – as I said – WRONG!

    Fact: “Paranormal investigators” are not credentialed by anyone. Any person, anywhere, any time, can claim to be one, and there is no way to say s/he isn’t, because there are no requirements for the job.

    YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT HERE! I could agree more with EVERY word of this!

    Fact: Voice recordings and photographs are easily faked or manipulated … especially with the help of computers, which are now ubiquitous, with free, widely-available software which is more than adequate for the purpose…

    Again, you are correct! AGAIN here! I NEVER believe a photograph I see…as a photographer I see things happen all the time with lights, movement, etc…HOWEVER – when you're in charge of the stuff and you KNOW that you're an honest person and fabricated NOTHING – then, you're calling ME a liar!

    So, you're smarter than a dictionary now! I pulled the definition right off a dictionary!

    And, I said – you are free to comment, when your comments are personally attacking a person's character and the derogatory things you said were just rude! RUDE! And, then you LIE about me saying that ghosts are everywhere…I AM NOT A FREAKIN MORON! I NEVER SAID THAT! And, it really pissed me off! You're supposed to be writing the TRUTH! ugh..I'm so annoyed with this whole thing now! So, Take your "skepticism' and sarcasm and RUDE words and enjoy your life. I have better things to do with myself than worry about what others are doing! I have my own life. I have no idea why I am so angry right now – but, you truly annoyed the hell out of me when you posted that I said "Ghosts are everywhere". I WOULD NEVER SAY THAT! And, I didn't! Get your facts straight

  • PsiCop

    I apologize for saying you had said "Ghosts are everywhere." You did not, and I should not have accused you of it.

    As for proof of ghosts and photographs and recordings … when I say they can be easily faked, I mean that generally. It doesn't matter who conveys the photo or recording. Unfortunately, I do not know you well enough to be able to say that any photo or recording you might give me could not be a fake.

    Does that mean I'm calling you a liar? No. It means I cannot take your word for things because I don't know you well enough.

    As it turns out, as I said, I know a couple of paranormal investigators. Honestly I do not believe they would "fake" anything themselves. They might, however, take a (say) photo that they interpret as being of a ghost, when it's not (it could be some other optical artifact). They might also give me photos given to them which had been taken by others, which might — for all I know — be faked.

    In neither case would a negative assessment logically constitute an accusation that they're "liars."

    As for my skepticism being an "attack" on someone … no, it's not. It is not "derogatory" for me not to believe your husband or you. For you to say that places an obligation on me to take your word for things, which quite honestly is neither fair nor rational. If you choose not to believe in the invisible, silent unicorn dancing in my backyard, that is not an "attack" on me, nor is it "derogation" for you to say you do not believe me.

    Lastly, you agree with me about paranormal investigators not having credentials or established procedures. There is a solution to this problem, which is for you and other P.I.s to get together, create a standards body, and develop credentials and standards. Standards organizations are not unusual. The field might actually get some credibility if it were to do so. I'm astounded that no one to date has attempted to do this, but they haven't.

    At any rate, let me finish this comment with a reiteration of my apology for having stated that you said "ghosts are everywhere."