The Shared Diary of a Novice Paranormal Investigator, aged 52 and Three Quar

When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer.

(Stevie Wonder)

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamed of in your philosophy.


Ri fol ri fol tol de riddle dee.


The red stripe, cameras, psychology and the silly woman.

National Rational explained my red stripe for me.  In order to decipher their explanation, I needed to take a quick trip to photography land.  This is how a camera works:

The tiny hole in the front of the camera lets light in.  The light hits the camera lens, which focuses it to make an image and when we hit the button, the picture is saved. 

If light enters the camera at certain angles, it does not hit the lens properly, so it bounces around and the lens cannot focus it properly.  If we hit the button and save an image like this, the resulting picture will have shiny extra features, which may seem ethereal.  When this happens, it is called lens flare.  The photo of the glass taken in the pub investigation has a lens flare.

My red stripe picture was a little more complicated.  I took it with the camera on a ‘night scene’ setting, although I did not have a clue what that really means.  I just thought it might be a good setting for a rather dark room.  ‘Night scene’, I now understand, is the setting which opens the hole for four seconds, which is a long time in photography.  The diagnosis was that during the four seconds, I had moved the camera.  The flash therefore made a stripe across the image, instead of hitting one area.  This feature is called a light trail, and the blurriness of the trail makes it easy to imagine extra features within the image, like heads or faces in the wall. 

Having this help from NR was gratifying, if slightly disappointing.  It is reassuring to know that skilled people will take time out to look at my snaps and explain them.  It is a shame that I do not seem to have anything special after all.  I copied the explanation to Cosy Local, who curtly replied ‘thank’.  It seems that by invoking the spectre of National Rational I had forfeited their friendly cyber-stroking and no longer deserved the other half of the phrase.  Never mind. 

The two phantom heads look different every time I see them.  Perhaps we see what we are in the mood to see.  Maybe sometimes, we see what people tell us we can see.

I know I have sometimes witnessed an event, and formed an opinion about what happened, and what motivated the participants, only to revise my thoughts after conferring with other witnesses, with different perspectives?  ‘Nah!  She didn’t call him an arrogant lying toe-rag because he spent her money on a peroxide tart!  She called him that to deflect attention from her long standing affair with the one-eyed bookmaker!’  It is only by comparing notes and revising our thoughts that we gain a full picture. 

It is dangerous if we no longer trust our own judgement at all, or if we inflexibly cling to it in the hope that only complete independence makes us strong.  How can we recognise the truth?  I see marks on a wall and someone else sees faces, then I am persuaded that the faces are there, and I in turn persuade LSS that he can see them, before deciding that they are not there after all.  My truth has changed three times now, and each time it changes, I spread a different story. 

When we visited Loch Ness, I began the day as a believer and ended it as a cynic.  LSS and Youngest converted the opposite way. 

Psychologists regard perception as a kind of conversation between our surroundings, our senses and the way our brains interpret what arrives.  We interpret what we see according to what we already know.  We use our experiences to decode the world.  Sometimes, our eyes or our brains are tricked.  If we see something outrageously new, we may not even be able to perceive it properly – instead, we believe we have seen something a bit closer to what we have been accustomed to seeing.  The investigator from Cosy Local saw two phantom heads because that was the kind of thing she was looking for.   At first, I saw nothing but the background to the red stripe, because I was only expecting to see either the room and people in it, or beings draped in bed sheets shouting ‘boo!’

The investigator had social influence over me because I was in uncertain territory and she had more clout.  I also wanted to be a part of her world, so I accepted her leadership and what is called her ‘informational influence’.  I allowed her version of events a certain prestige.  That is why, when she said there were faces, I saw faces.  LSS, glancing over from the periphery with one eye, assumed I had selected my mentors with more care and colluded with both of us.  Had there been another person involved, no doubt she would have been persuaded just because there were already three of us talking the same talk.  It is astounding that I can be so unguarded as to give another person power over what I see and do not see, but I am only one among millions of easily deluded souls.

Fickle, impressionable follower that I am, I stopped seeing the faces when National Rational told me a different tale, because they occupy a higher place in my internal hierarchy of storytellers.

I have learned, though, that proper investigators search every pixel.  I have been sloppy and must improve.  In future, I will look more closely at my dull snaps.

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