BELIEFS: Ouija board, psychics and ghosts debunked by Science of Scams
Hollywood and advertising firms must have a real riot over how easily we’re duped. The generic formula in advertising is to convince us that we have something lacking in our lives, or possess some flaw that we never knew about, and then offer us the ultimate solution by way of a product or service. Hollywood films often pose the danger of showing us how the larger world or an aspect of it should be perceived.
But what’s not so funny is when scam artists begin to exploit human desires and profit off desperate people, such as the blind, the bereaved or the disabled. From ghosts to psychics to scientology to horoscopes — these have all become big business by profiting off those who can be convinced enough to believe in them.
If you are a believer in anything mentioned here this is by no means a mockery of your beliefs. We all hold our own and what should be encouraged is a shared understanding and acceptance of one another’s beliefs. What is vitally important, however, is that we are not suckered into supporting abuse of such systems by those with profit-driven agendas; who honestly don’t give a fig what you believe.
A belief in the paranormal can be traced throughout history, which comes from our desire to understand things we can’t yet explain. Human beings are hardwired to believe such things. It’s part of our brain’s desire to find cause and effect in everything. - Derren Brown
The human species used to believe in fairies, that the Earth was flat and that the sun was pulled up and down by a chariot. When new scientific evidence was brought to the table, we discarded those beliefs and superstitions. Unfortunately, we created more, and superstition is as alive today as it ever was. What hopefully has changed is that we are a lot better equipped to analyse supposed superstitions critically.
I recently came across a fantastic website called Science of Scams that does just that. The website has been developed by a team of people on a global mission to make the world truly question the paranormal. They have released seven hoax videos to date which aim to explain and demonstrate particular paranormal phenomena. The videos are really interesting to watch and what follows is a basic synopsis of the sort of information they offer (adapted from the website).
SCIENCE OF SCAMS: GHOSTS
The “Ghost on Film” video demonstrates how easy it is to project a ghost-like figure using mirrors, correct lighting and a real little girl hidden from view. Our fascination with ghosts or spirits wandering the Earth has resulted in a plethora of books, magazines, websites, TV shows, and of course, people who claim they can contact the dead for a nominal fee. It is quite natural for a human being to experience feelings of chill and dread and to fear death itself. Combine this with particular atmospheric conditions and an active imagination and perceived ghost sighting become quite common.
SCIENCE OF SCAMS: PSYCHICS
The life force of psychics is what is known as “cold reading” — a technique employed by several industries today. It is often used by salespeople, hypnotists, advertisers, faith healers and con artists. At a basic level, cold reading utilises a linguistic skill known as “the Barnum statement”. These are phrases which could apply to anyone, but require a single person to supply the meaning from their own personal life. They all rely on their subject’s inclination to find more meaning in a situation than there actually is. Cold reading is a popular technique employed by psychic mediums such as John Edward and by those who write horoscopes.
SCIENCE OF SCAMS: OUIJA BOARD
A Ouija board (also known as a spirit board), is a flat board marked with letters, numbers and other symbols. It is theoretically used to communicate with the dead. The first historical mention of something resembling a Ouija board is found in China around 1100 BC. The word “ouija” is derived from both the French and German words for “yes”.
The unexciting truth behind Ouija boards is that the participants are sub-consciously moving the glass or pointer themselves. This is known as an ideomotor response, which can be encouraged through simple suggestion. Further evidence of this sort of response can be found in tests that have been carried out while the participants were blindfolded. Here the messages come out as nonsense, which is arguably proof that the participants need to see where they are pushing the glass.
Our emotions are deep and unconscious, and tend to have more power over us than our rational minds. Once an idea plays to our imaginations, it's hard to shift it, and then we look around for things to support it, happily disregarding things which don't fit the picture we have in our heads. – Derren Brown
The other videos available at Science of Scams examine brick breaking, chi energy, the psi wheel and telekinesis. There is also a test you can take to determine whether you are a believer.
At the end of the day, what all of this is trying to encourage is that we should always questions such concepts and beliefs and never blindly accept something without asking how and why. We need to look at the evidence and make educated choices, and never be afraid to re-examine what we believe and what we think.