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Hallowe’en: Between Worlds but mainly heading in the otherworldly direction…

November 1, 2017

I’m becoming increasingly paranormal. It’s not just the long beard and the long hair and the casual conversational, ‘yeah, I’m a WIZARD‘ (although, that helps), but if everyone has to find a niche, then mine is probably an anomalous one. Certainly judging by my recent diary.

THE SCOTTISH SOCIETY FOR PSYCHICAL RESEARCH

First of all, there’s my involvement with the Scottish Society for Psychical Research. I have long been a trustee of the charity (it is indeed a registered Educational Charity) and we have been suffering years of decline; falling membership, increased venue hire costs and frankly, all the competition from the internet. We used to be one of a few organisations in the whole of the UK and then after Most Haunted, one amongst thousands. Also, many talks/presentations can be found on Youtube at the click of a mouse. For the armchair paranormal investigator, it’s easier to investigate from your armchair these days…

At the end of our last lecture programme our President of many years, Nick Kyle stood down as did our Treasurer and Secretary Sarah Grumball. They were followed by Hector MacLeod, our Minute Secretary and (unofficial) Legal Counsel. All were of a similar mind: that we had given it a good shot and perhaps it was time to call it quits? Whether it was worth it to continue to put so much effort into a struggling society when other commitments (or free time and fun) beckoned!?

It was perhaps time to wrap up the SSPR in its 30th year….?

ALL WELCOME SSPR Poster

But that’s not what happened. A small group of the remaining trustees hatched a plan to hold an EGM and see if there was an appetite to continue (complete with some Pecha Kucha talks afterwards, either to celebrate our continuation, or put on some entertainment during the wake!). Well, we’re continuing! Which is great news. I’m involved in trying to get our rebooted society up and running and ironing out some of the wrinkles.

However, it’s not just slog ~ there’s much to celebrate. Many of our older members have rejoined and we have many new members! Younger members! 

We’re busy booking our speakers and there’s some great ones coming up. If you’re interested we meet in 17 Queens Crescent, Glasgow in the Glasgow Theosophical Society building, every third Thursday in the month at 7.30 pm. For details, check out our website or our social media!

Although it’s a rather grandiose title, I’m the President now, and my inaugural lecture was entitled, ‘Don’t Panic: What a Paranormal Investigator Can Do‘ (hint: tell clients ‘Don’t Panic!’ mainly).

Here are two slides from the talk, making the point that investigator’s shouldn’t validate clients’ suspicions that they’re ‘just a wee bit psychic’ (as they may be delusional, unwell, or encouraging them on a psychic path may not end up being a great experience for them, as what if we were held responsible for that?)

Am I a Wee Bit Psychic

Am I a Wee Bit Psychic_2

And on the subject of Paranormal Investigation… I was asked to help a Digital Marketing/Advertising Agency fake a seance!

FAKING a séance FOR CIDER

Although the initial impetus was to make it a Victorian Seance (in the dark, holding hands, etc), I thought it might work better (and be a little more convincing) if we brought it into the present day and used EVP, or rather, as they say today, Instrumental Trans-Communication. i.e. Talking to Ghosts via Audio Equipment. 
WP_20171026_21_26_28_Pro

The venue was the Drovers’ Inn (at the North End of Loch Lomond), a specularly atmospheric hostel and watering hole, 300 years old. The building has a well-known reputation for being haunted, although I’ve not personally spoken to anyone who’s had a first hand experience there (the apocryphal yarns on the Inn’s website are all curiously anonymous). I don’t doubt there’s a history of weirdness, but I would like venues that market themselves as being haunted do a slightly better job at extracting witness statements from guests (helps with the credibility surely? And helps sell it as a must-stay place for the ghost-bothering tourist surely?). Although, to be fair to staff, breakfast is hard enough without interviewing ashen faced tourists over their morning coffee.

Anyway, the company I was working for, Bright Signals, did an amazing job at setting up the tricks in the room and re-engineered an old tape-recorder to produce voices/sounds at the tap of an app on the end of a wifi connected smartphone.

Drovers_Seance

Here’s a video of the full ‘experiment‘.  Conscious that we were indeed in a haunted inn, and we were asking ‘spirits’ to get in touch, I was aware of the (very remote) chance that something genuinely anomalous might happen. Well, it might. Spiritualists please note, that I did my best to properly open and close the proceedings, and even throw in a veiled apology to any genuine sprites that might be hanging around, arms folded, disappointed at all this boozy timewasting. (Do ghosts get troubled by timewasting? Considering that hanging around in the periphery of the space/time continuum seems to be all they do?)

Anyway, it was a great night. Lots of fun (and cider) were had by one and all.

EDINBURGH SCEPTICS

On Hallowe’en I was invited to speak to The Edinburgh Skeptics at the Edinburgh Horror Festival! I re-jigged/massaged my ‘The Problem with the Paranormal‘ talk, and added extra challenging attitude, just to wind up sceptics. Skeptics? Sceptics? I thought ‘skeptics’ was the American spelling, and yet it’s the ‘Edinburgh Skeptics’? I’m sceptical of those skeptics if they can’t even spell…. Anyhoo, it was a pleasant enough evening, although – as is usually the case when presenting this talk – neither believers nor sceptics like to have their beliefs challenged! Only one gent stayed behind for a beer and he turned out to be an actual, real, y’know a PhD from Edinburgh University PARAPSYCHOLOGIST! It was a most pleasant opportunity to have a chat with the science side of the paranormal paddock and it has encouraged me to strengthen the bonds of the SSPR and our lab-based chums.

Here’s one of the new slides I drew for the talk: Carl Sagan invoking his Sceptical Shock Absorbing Maxim: Extraordinary Claims require Extraordinary evidence.

Sagans_Law

Incidentally, I was emailed pretty swiftly by one of the audience who was slightly disappointed that my talk included quite a lot of negative comments about Spiritualism ~ namely the amount of fraud. She was a medium. I replied that I wasn’t really that down on Spiritualism, but to ignore the negatives, to wallpaper over the cracks, doesn’t really strengthen the case for Spiritualism. Surely we should all be striving, together, for the best quality of evidence?

I think our email back and forth ended amicably enough. I’m not out to make enemies or offend. I just find it rather critical to the argument (the argument, whether there’s any reality to the paranormal) that we address the central reasons why neither side of the opposing sides of the debate really listen to one another… It’s almost as if believers and sceptics live in parallel universes!?

….maybe they do? 😉

ONCE UPON A TIME IN ZOMBIEVILLE IS NOW ON ITUNES

I’m thrilled that the Zombie Survival Comedy Drama that I wrote for BBC Schools Radio is now on iTunes. All credit to the fine talented Steve and Phil at Bigmouth Audio and Elba Studios – and all the brilliant actors! A great job!

Here it is! Spread the word!
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So, Hallowe’en may not be the most scientific time to sample my ‘activities and conclude that I’m almost a full-time Wizard, but… here’s to making life a little weirder and more wonderful from now on…

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