Investigating the paranormal becomes quite personal. When you have an experience, for example, it is not something that you easily can prove in a field where people are hotly debating if it even exists in the first place. While there may be several different explanations, we don't know always know for sure that is what happened. No matter what the explanation and if you think what has happened to someone else was really paranormal or not, it was very real to the person experiencing it. So what you are left with or more to the point, what the person who had the experience is left with is a feeling. Something in their gut. Maybe it was a confirmation they needed or it just lit a spark or curiosity.
How many times have you had an experience and then at the end of the night or even days later when you replay it in your head you rationalise it a bit and may even feel a little silly for getting excited because it was something that you were able to explain? It is something that comes with experience and knowledge. We know after investigating for a while a lot more of what isn't paranormal and things that can make us think something is. We use this knowledge to further our research and even explain some of the things we witness or experience. For many within the paranormal field, it was a single experience that inspired them to look for more answers. One of the common themes that I find when watching or reading interviews with investigators is that often they talk about a paranormal experience from their youth that always stuck with them and sparked their lifelong desire to find answers within the paranormal. So while we may revisit some of our recent experiences, what if we were to revisit our earliest experiences? The ones we have never forgotten and the ones that are responsible for our pursuit of the paranormal. What would happen if we found our first paranormal experience actually wasn't paranormal at all?
Where does this leave our past paranormal experiences? I had an interesting conversation a few months ago with someone who called themselves a skeptic. They used to be quite the believer in the paranormal. When they started studying psychology, they learnt about the concept of false memories. One of the assignments was to look into some past events and investigate if the recollection they had of an event was correct or if it was a false memory. One of the events they used for this assignment was the very paranormal experience that kickstarted their lifelong passion for paranormal investigating. After contacting family members and piecing things together, the paranormal experience they thought they had when they were younger in fact never happened. It turned out when they came across their first paranormal book, it created a memory of an event that supposedly happened a few years earlier. This fake paranormal memory they had was what turned out to be the catalyst for looking into the field further. This person felt a bit cheated by their very own brain and had them questioning everything they knew. After further research, they decided that they didn’t believe in the paranormal anymore, mainly due to the fact that their first paranormal experience turned out to have never happened and the psychology behind why we can't always trust our brain.
It makes me think of the question which is one I have asked before,
"if you could debunk your first paranormal experience, would it change your beliefs?"
For me, I know I probably could debunk my first experience if I really wanted to look at it from a logical perspective, but I don’t want to. What I consider to be my first paranormal experience came much later in life than a lot of other people. I was 21 years old. My grandfather had died a couple of months beforehand. We were very close and it was the first time I had experienced death. His death was somewhat unexpected, and it hit hard. I couldn’t process the fact that he was here one day and not the next. I missed him terribly and I felt lucky that I at least got to say goodbye. In fact, I was by his side with my hand on his chest when he took his final breath. This is how close we were. He had always made a big deal about me turning 21 years old. When the time came, my family bought me a big bunch of balloons to celebrate my birthday. They were sitting in the corner of the kitchen for days – they were helium. One night I got up and walked past them to go to the toilet which was past the kitchen and down through the laundry. When I came out of the toilet, it seemed like the balloons had somehow made the journey all the way through the winding doorways and followed me and were waiting for me as I came out. I immediately felt like he was with me and that it was his way of wishing me a happy birthday. Sure I can come up with a few ways of how it could happen rationally. I have told this story so many times that it may have even changed over the years. My friends all remember this story well because it always gave people chills .... but in a nice way. In my heart, I felt that at that moment he was there with me and I never want to lose the feeling that I am not alone. For that very reason, I will never attempt to debunk this moment because I don't care.
We can debunk things, we can look at our false memories, but we can’t change the feeling we have inside. It is that feeling that drives me to investigate the paranormal, not a single experience. I like the feeling that I am not alone, and if it means I hang onto a false memory here and there then that is OK for me because I am not trying to prove anything to anyone ….. but myself.
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