Do you believe in ghosts?

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In 2009, Carrie Poppy was 25 years old. She had recently moved into a new house which she soon suspected was haunted. As you read her story (quoted below from this Ted Talk) you might ask yourself if you too wouldn’t have been convinced it was a ghost.

“It was this guest house, it had kind of been dilapidated, not taken care of for a long time. And one night, I was sitting there and I got this really spooky feeling, kind of the feeling like you’re being watched. But no one was there except my two dogs, and they were just chewing their feet. And I looked around. No one was there. I started to hear these sounds, this “whoosh,” kind of whisper, like something passing through me. And I thought, OK, it’s just my imagination. But the feeling just kept getting worse, and I started to feel this pressure in my chest, sort of like the feeling when you get bad news. But it started to sink lower and lower and almost hurt.

And over the course of that week, this feeling got worse and worse, and I started to become convinced that something was there in my little guest house, haunting me.

I would sit there in bed and cry every night. And the feeling on my chest got worse and worse. It was physically painful. And I even went to a psychiatrist and tried to get her to prescribe me medicine, and she wouldn’t just because I don’t have schizophrenia.

So finally I got on the internet, and I Googled “hauntings.” And I came upon this forum of ghost hunters. But these were a special kind of ghost hunters — they were skeptics. They believed that every case of ghosts that they had investigated so far had been explained away by science. And I was like, “OK, smart guys, this is what’s happening to me, and if you have an explanation for me, I would love to hear it.”

And one of them said, “OK. Um, have you heard of carbon monoxide poisoning?

I looked it up, and the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include a pressure on your chest, auditory hallucinations — whoosh — and an unexplained feeling of dread.“

What Carrie was experiencing was real—the effects of gas poisoning that nearly killed her. The cause she ascribed to those feeling, ghosts, was wrong. 1+1=1

Most of us are quick to judge. If we hear of an experience that doesn’t match our worldview, we often reject the entire claim as false—the experience as well as the explanation.

Take for example “snake oil” claims of cables, magic dots, bricks, pseudo science. How easy is it to just lump these together in the reject bin? We hear differences—yet without a scientific explanation that meets exacting standards, many of us are unwilling to accept them as facts.

Here’s the thing. We cannot ignore that which we and others experience just because we’re not happy with the explanation.

What Carrie Poppy experienced was real. What we often hear in contested products like cables is just as real.

It’s often only the explanations that get us off course, falsely throwing babies out with the bathwater.

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