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Weekly Column by Andy Grieser
Column by Andy Grieser

October 11, 2002

Halloween is drawing close, and I’m practically giddy with anticipation. I love everything about the holiday, especially the inevitable tales of the unexplained. There’s just one thing: Despite having my own ghost stories, I just don’t believe anyone else’s.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. It’s not like I’ve got a closed mind: I make no secret of being Christian, which requires more than a little blind faith, and as I mentioned above I’ve had brushes with the unexplained. (I’ll share more closer to Halloween.)

I guess I’m a skeptical believer. When it comes to bumps in the night or unidentified flying objects, I gotta see it to believe it. I fully believe most “sightings” can be explained naturally. And yes, I fully acknowledge that I am a hypocrite.

What gets my goat is that most true believers totally disregard Occam’s Razor. That is, the simplest explanation is usually the right one. This is most prevalent right now with crop circles. Look, the guys who originated this hoax confessed long ago. They told exactly how it was done, a surprisingly simple yet inventive procedure. No wonder the crop-circle fans still insist only aliens could create such elaborate designs: They were completely shown up with two men using rope, boards and makeshift sightline techniques.

You read that right. Despite the confession, the croppies still think advanced civilizations with access to faster-than-light travel can find no better communication than large symbols etched in fields. This despite the fact that a U.S. farmer very recently created an incredibly elaborate maze depicting all 50 states and the words “God Bless America” in his cornfield. Alien technology? Nope. He whipped up the design on his computer, mapped it over an image of his field, hooked up a GPS to a sort of industrial-issue lawnmower and went for a ride.

Television psychics? Can’t stand ‘em. I hate the whole atmosphere of preying on the needy, especially after hearing about backstage hijinks (bugging the green room, for example, or “chatting up” the guests before the show – all the better to later use personal information). We need a new Houdini to spend a year or so publicly exposing frauds like that. CSICOP does a good job, but is unfortunately not prominent enough to convince Joe Sixpack.

Ghost stories are my biggest bugbear. I have my own ghost stories. I’m not shy about sharing my own ghost stories. But let someone else tell one, and I immediately dismiss it as mistaking the natural for supernatural (or fiction). Let me reiterate: I am a hypocrite. More to the point, I have to be shown something to believe. Plus, the whole “Indian burial ground” thing started as a joke after the movie Poltergeist, but now every other “true” ghost story ends with the witness finding out their house/apartment/roller rink/whatever was built on an Indian burial ground. (Outside the U.S., change “Indian” to the long-dead culture of your choice.) Man, is this nation built on a layer of bones or what?

Anyway, it’s Halloween. I’ll be told dozens of ghost stories, and I’ll smile and nod politely. (Hell, I’ll share tales of my own.) Just know that you’re better off taking me by the hand, dragging me to the haunted spot in question and letting me see for myself.


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