Warning Signs

I never used to feel sorry for Scully, but now I do. The poor woman would attempt to explain events rationally, would be wrong every single time, yet never ended up with any tangible evidence to prove anything conclusively. It must have been so very, very frustrating. When watching The X-Files, I thought this was apt – scientists are way too closed minded, I thought. I changed my mind, and with the rise of the Internet the belief in UFOs and aliens faded away. The paranormal, though, is still strangely popular. A surprisingly large number of people claim to believe in ghosts and haunted houses. With this in mind, here’s what happened to me earlier today:

  • At around midday, I was sitting on a sofa in the lounge when my peripheral vision caught a movement through a window that looks over a small passage down the side of the house.
  • Later, at around 1430, I was standing in the kitchen when there was a loud and distinct cough from behind me. I snapped around, but saw nothing that could explain it. The kitchen is directly adjacent to the passage.
  • Now, whenever I go into the kitchen, I feel nervous and uneasy.

Conclusion: there’s a ghost – the house is haunted.

When I was younger that would have actually been my conclusion. Well, not for certain, but it would likely have been foremost option in my mind. Now, happily, I look at things differently. Because, when I thought about it, the above isn’t what really happened.

I did see a movement across a window, but when I looked into the passage I saw a hanging basket, from which long plants dangle. One of these plants was blowing in the wind, and would occasionally pass in front of the window. Whether an extra-strong gust blew it further I don’t know, but I do know that peripheral vision is excellent at detecting movement for evolutionary reasons. There’s very little detail from that part of vision, but movement is easy to make out, as detecting the presence of an attacker would undoubtedly have been a useful trait. It makes sense that large movements would immediately make me think of a person or other sentient being, as there’s every advantage and very little disadvantage, over millions of years of evolution, in making that assumption.

When I said I was ‘standing in the kitchen’, I wasn’t lying. But there was more to it. I was humming a tune to myself; I’m in a creaky old house, the sounds of which I’m not used to; there’s a railway maybe a kilometre away, and the horns are audible sometimes; I’d just tidied up from lunch, so objects had been placed into cupboards and the fridge, perhaps not in a very secure manner; there’s a cat who wanders around (although as far as I know she was curled up on the sofa at the time); I did some washing this morning, so the washing machine could well still be active; I still have a bit of a cold so (sorry to be gross) it’s possible I was sniffing with all the associated noises, since nobody else was around; there are numerous pheasants wandering about the garden – I’ve no idea what kind of noise they make; the road next to the house is regularly used by tractors and other large vehicles; and, possibly most tellingly: the cough came at the exact moment the lid of the bin closed. Each of these things (or a combination, more likely) could possibly produce the sound I heard.

It’s not surprising I feel nervous, either. Much as my rational mind may be describing what actually happened, the unconscious mind will act according to the way it’s been programmed by evolution. It doesn’t understand washing machines or cats or trains. All it knows is that unexplained movements and noises = danger. On the plains of Africa that would indicate a predator, or at least an unknown intruder, so it makes sense that my brain would want me to be more alert than normal. It’s an hour later and I can tell that I’m more antsy than I was this morning. It wouldn’t surprise me if I notice more unexplained movements or strange events as the day continues.

So, sure, it could have been a ghost, but there’s really no reason to think so. I can entirely see how the above could be used as ‘evidence’, however, to anybody approaching the subject with an initial bias towards the paranormal. I had to actively sit down and think of all the other explanations for the noise, but I’m sure that if I looked at them again I could come up with seemingly logical arguments for why they might not have been the cause.

It’s fun to have something happen first-hand, though. I like to think Scully would be proud.