I Just Had a Supernatural Experience

Spoiler: not really.

I was just in the kitchen fixing dinner for the cats, when I heard a woman cough. Just a single throat-clearing cough. It definitely sounded like a woman.

And this was odd, since there aren’t supposed to be any women in the house. Any company would be unexpected, seeing as how I’m snowed in by Snowmageddon. But it was convincing enough that I checked the living room and looked for fresh tracks in the snow outside. Perhaps someone got stranded and wandered in when she found an accidentally-unlocked door? Or could it be a ghost?

Obviously, there was no one there, as you know, since you’ve read the spoiler at the top. I tried replaying the sound on the tape recorder of my mind[1] and play it back, trying to figure out what I’d heard, rather than what I thought I’d heard. That is, I asked myself what sounds I might mistake for a woman’s cough.

The most likely candidate I came up with is a chair leg creaking across the wooden floor. This is consistent with one of the cats jumping off of the chair to get his dinner, especially since there’s a chair that he particularly likes to lie on. I don’t know that that’s what happened, of course, but it makes a heck of a lot more sense than ghosts. (Besides, $CAT sashayed into the kitchen with his tail held high, and not at all as if he’d seen a ghost.)

At any rate, this illustrates why one should be skeptical about reports of UFOs, the paranormal, etc. When someone says “I saw X”, usually what they mean is “I saw something that I interpreted as X”. Yes, they’re sincere, but it’s quite possible for people to be sincerely mistaken. And unfortunately, it’s not possible to reach into people’s heads and pull out what they actually saw or heard, as opposed to what they say they saw or heard. Which means that oral testimony, however sincere, isn’t sufficient to prove the existence of UFOs or paranormal phenoma. As the kids say, “Pics or it didn’t happen.”

(HT to Anne for the meteorologist video.)

(Cross-posted at UMD Society of Inquiry.)

[1] Note to young people: in ancient times, a tape recorder was a device that recorded sounds so you could play them back later. They were very good at playing back ambient sounds. So if you recorded an interview with someone and played it back, you’d hear the creaking of your chair with perfect such clarity that it would drown out the interviewee.