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Polterheist PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Phil Plait   
What's dumber? Robbing a house, or getting caught because a ghost wouldn't let you leave?

I'm guessing it's that second part. Even dumber, when the family returned to their home, they found the would-be robber suffering dehydration (more on that on The Star Online). Or maybe he was already on the brink of it when he robbed the house, which is why he thought it was haunted. Beats me.

Of course, we hear ghost stories all the time. As I (and lots of others, of course) have long been saying, there is no credible evidence of ghosts. None. Zip. Like with UFOs, if you want to convince me of this, I want real evidence. Not a blurry photo, or video of a spider crawling on a surveillance camera. Evidence.

Of course, it would also help if people like David Klinghoffer didn't apologize for belief in the supernatural. His opinion piece in the L.A. Times has some good points, but is way too credulous of the possibility of the paranormal. He dismissed brain-related effects explaining the belief in paranormal as too much like "just-so stories", and being unfalsifiable. Mr Klinghoffer, if you read this: there have been tests that show this effect to occur. Magnetic effects to the temporal lobe can induce all sorts of paranormal-like feelings. While this is not a sufficient explanation, it certainly is far more than a just-so story.

Anyway, I know stories like the one about the goofball burglar will continue on forever. As a rational person, I know that we will never be an entirely rational species. My hope is that we can minimize our irrationality... especially when it comes to our voters, our politicians, our editors, our writers, and anyone else in positions of power or the ability to communicate.

Tip o' the ectoplasmic residue to Massimo Pigliucci.
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Comments (15)Add Comment
Things that go bump in the night.
written by Jason7463, December 17, 2008
Why dont you do a debunking on ghosts,maybe join a ghosthunter party and find out if theres any truth to these claims.I would trust a member of randis team.
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written by Diverted Chrome, December 17, 2008
There isn't much info to go on here. If the man really was on the floor of the house for a few days, then there's a likelihood he have suffered a stroke or seizure that was accompanied by delirium which led to his uninformed description. But I guess if they added this info, it would not have been a news item around the world, since the point of the story seems to be to laugh at the man? Hard to tell.
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written by BillyJoe, December 17, 2008
I would start going to work if the ghost in my house would stop stopping me. I would fight back, but how do I fight back something I cannot see?
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written by advancedGIR, December 18, 2008
To BillyJoe, while it's not very easy to do, you can fight back a ghost: all you have to do is find one of its descendants, trick him to commit a really violent murder in your house and voila, your ghost will be too busy fleeing the wrath of its new nemesis. The downside is that the fights will probably be too noisy for anyone to sleep in the house, so simply burn the place down and use the insurance money to move somewhere else. smilies/smiley.gif

...or you could have your old plumbing fixed.
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written by BillyJoe, December 18, 2008
No, my plumbing is fine, it's definitely a ghost.
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written by cwniles, December 18, 2008
Malaysia huh? perhaps this guy had too much Betel Nut? (ok, so Betel Nut is from Micronesia not Malaysia)

That David Klinghoffer Op-Ed piece reminds me of why I never read the Op-Ed's.

By the way, he also authored "The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy" and "Why the Jews Rejected Jesus: The Turning Point in Western History."


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Triple Play of Insanity
written by Willy K, December 18, 2008
First - The "ghost" story.... Gee willikers, someone shows signs of serious mental disorder. Yup, schizophrenics hear voices, see apparitions and have sometimes get overpowering paranoia. No new story there.

Second - Klinghoffer's bit in the LA Times is just the usual crap for the ignorant. No new story here either.

Third - Klinghoffer is a member of the Discovery Institute. It really puzzles me as to why an Orthodox Jew would, as advocated by the DI, want an unelected Christian Theocracy to rule the USA. I guess he doesn't think anything bad might happen similar to what happened to Jews under the rule of unelected Christian Theocracies in the past. Same old story here. smilies/cry.gif

Willy K
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written by markbellis, December 18, 2008
You can get dehydrated very quickly in Malaysia! There is quite a bit of folklore beliefs in Malaysia about evil spirits and things like the Penanggalan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penanggalan, a sort of flying head that has entrails hanging down from - makes for very lurid movie posters! If the guy had heat stroke and couldn't stand up he might have attributed it to a spirit.
Betel is consumed in Malaysia, but it isn't a hallucinogen - you can try some yourself if you have an Indian grocery store near you - just ask for "Paan" (say it with a long a).
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written by Resume, December 18, 2008
The TAPS minions would say they have "tons" of credible paranormal evidence. It's high (though unintended)comedy on that website.
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written by philplait@randi.org, December 18, 2008
Jason7463, in fact I did go on a ghost hunting expedition when we filmed the pilot for "The Skeptologists". It was interesting. As with most ghost hunters I've seen, they didn't really understand what their equipment could and couldn't do. There was also some psychological priming before we went in ("Some people feel nausea, or chills..."). That was only one ghost hunting troop, but I bet a lot of them use those principles.
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Evidence
written by DrMatt, December 19, 2008
Evidence is coming.... in 10 ^ 70 years.
The DrMatt Scholarship Fund is selling stock in it.
The stock is primed to explode.
smilies/grin.gif smilies/grin.gif smilies/grin.gif
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written by cwniles, December 19, 2008
Just to clarify, I never said Betel Nut was a hallucinogen. It is however a CNS stimulant and the effects of a CNS stimulant can vary greatly depending on size/frequency of dose(s) as well as the users pre-existing mental condition(s). Amphetamines are a CNS stimulant not a hallucinogen yet can cause hallucinations....go figure.
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written by markbellis, December 19, 2008
Assuming that in fact there was no "supernatural figure" pushing the burglar to the ground, and barring the family not having employed an Orang-utan as a security guard for their store, it's fair to say that the burglar was hallucinating.
I realize that the reference to betel was meant jokingly, however, it should be said that it is not a strong stimulant, is used socially throughout southern Asia, and there are studies that suggest it reduces the incidence of hallucinations in people suffering from schizophrenia and Alzheimer's.
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written by Cuddy Joe, December 19, 2008
The guy was a burglar, a crook. Thieves are typically drug/alcohol-addicted, hence the need to steal. They also lie, because telling the truth lands you in jail. Based on the little info given, I'd guess he was either hallucinating due to alcohol and/or drug withdrawal, or simply lying.
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written by dr pepper, December 23, 2008
Those ghost hunting shows would be a lot different if someone would just turn on the lights.
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