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Gnome Hunters PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   
GNOME HUNTERS: A Demonstration

 

I was recently asked to write an article for a group of paranormal investigators about how skeptics view believers. I pointed out that, not being psychic, I cannot possibly know what all skeptics think of all believers. But I did come up with the following example, which I think helps demonstrate the skeptical position. Skeptics, you might find this example eerily familiar. I hope that you enjoy it, and that if you come across any Gnome Hunters in the future, you might be able to use it to illustrate why certain claims are difficult to believe.

One day, you are hanging out in a book store. You bump into a man who is buying some books, and wind up talking to him for a while. You find out that the man has a hobby – every time he visits a new place, he scans the area with a special Gnome Finder that he has designed himself. In reality, the Gnome Finder is a calculator. When the man finds out about a place that is rumored to be full of gnomes (which are, of course, invisible), the man takes his calculator/Gnome Finder to the location and puts in a simple math problem; like 2+2. Every time the man gets a wrong answer, he knows that gnomes are around because gnomes hate math and they block all right answers to illustrate that fact.



The man ignores all other possible explanations for the wrong answer; like perhaps his finger slipped on the button or the batteries in the calculator were low. He knows there are gnomes because texts dating back to ancient times have reports of them, and because there are so many reports still. He even, when he was a child, saw a gnome, and that experience has stayed with him ever since.

You abruptly begin backing away because the man is clearly insane.

Let's examine this example a little more closely.

The man believes in something you have never personally seen, and for which there is no scientific evidence. The man uses equipment to gauge whether or not this thing you have never seen is present in a location even though it is not designed for the purpose, is not accurate, and has never been shown to do anything beyond one particular thing, which is not searching for gnomes. The man does not account for other possibilities for his anomalous readings. The man depends upon the mythology of a civilization for proof. The man also depends on a memory from when he was a young child, despite evidence that childhood memories are unreliable.gnome

Let me know when that sounds familiar.

Assume you keep talking to this man because you have no regard for your own safety.

You bring up the points in the above paragraph. To each of these points, the man has a response. He says that it doesn't matter if you personally have not seen gnomes. He has. And yes, it was when he was a child, but obviously that just means children are more open to the possibility that gnomes exist, and that the rules that are hammered into us in school have made adults blind to the presence of gnomes. The man says that it doesn't matter what the calculator was designed to do – he has evidence, from his many gnome hunting expeditions, that there is a correlation between wrong readings and reports of gnome activity. And the man insists that he does account for other possibilities for the readings because he changes his batteries often and is very careful when putting in the numbers. And anyway, the man can prove it. He has photos.

You ask to see the photos of the gnomes. The man presents you with a series of photographs from different locations. Some of the photos look like smoke. Some look like lens flares. Some look like motion blurs. Some look like bugs caught in the flash of the camera.

You point this out, and the man tells you that he is sure no one in the photos was ever smoking. He knows how to photograph things because he has taken a photography course, so they aren't lens flares. He would know what those looked like. No one in the photos was in motion, and neither was the camera. There were no bugs out that night because it was winter.

And anyway, that's alright, he has audio too.

You ask to hear the audio, and the man pulls a voice recorder from his pocket. He plays you an audio clip. It is full of static. You hear something that might be a voice, but you aren't really sure because the quality is kind of poor, and there is no context for the clip – it starts up right in the middle of what the man refers to as Gnome Voice Phenomenon, or GVP. If you think about it, it does sort of sound like a voice in the same way that if you drag a chair across the floor it might sound similar to a human voice if it was played back through a voice recorder, which is designed to filter audio in search of patterns like human voices. If you think about it, the sound could almost practically be saying “Paul is dead,” or “Cranberry sauce,” or “Toaster pastry.”

The man tells you it says “I am Gnome.”

You ask to hear the recording again, and he plays it back to you, this time with you listening specifically for a sound that is close to “I am Gnome.” And, after he plays it again, you can sort of hear it that way. You know, however, that humans search for patterns in noise, and that if someone tells you specifically what pattern to look for, you'll be able to find it. In fact, you have tested this phenomenon at home by recording the sound of a glass being scooted across the surface of a table and later telling your good friend that it was a secret special recording of Marilyn Monroe, and he could swear he heard part of the happy birthday song in it. And even if it really is a voice, and even if it really is saying “I am Gnome” in some of the most garbled language you've ever heard, you can't see anything. Audio is only audio. Even if the voice was perfectly clear, there could be a human being standing right next to the recorder saying it.

You point this out, and the man tells you there absolutely was not anyone doing any such thing.

In fact, he has a television show on the Sci-Fi Network on Wednesdays at 9/8 Central with the rest of his group, called GAPS (Gnome Activity Pursuing Society). You go home, glad to be rid of the man in the bookstore. Luckily, it is Wednesday, so you sit down and turn on the Sci-Fi channel and watch the show.

The show contains everything you feared. A group of individuals walking around, searching for gnomes with equipment that doesn't actually prove anything about gnomes. A series of anomalous calculator readings that don't illustrate anything at all. The group says that they are skeptical, but they sure as heck aren't called “We Are Going To Go Figure Out Whether Or Not There Is Something Society.” They are GAPS. They even have t-shirts.

At one point in the show, something passes in front of the camera. It looks like it might be mist. The GAPS team is very excited about this, as gnomes are known to appear in a mist-like form. They run around for a few minutes, trying to capture more mist. They also try to replicate the mist. They cannot replicate the mist. It must be real Gnome-Mist. Of course, you realize from your seat at home that this means nothing except that there is no more mist around, but GAPS disagrees.

They never actually call the location “Gnomed,” but many of the members argue about whether or not it is. There is one, who you assume is always the hard-sell, who is very against using the word “Gnomed” at all. He prefers the term “anomalous activity.” Then he calls himself a skeptic, even though the logo on his web site contains, you guessed it, a gnome, and his show is called Gnome Hunters (GH for short).

You still aren't really sure what the mist was, so you get online on your computer. You discover two things:

  1. GAPS has a giant fanbase.

  2. There are groups out there that have replicated the mist you saw in the episode.

 After all this, do you believe in gnomes?

 

http://www.skepticalanalysis.com


http://www.the-atlantic-paranormal-society.com

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Comments (22)Add Comment
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written by Reno, December 18, 2008
There are gnomes. I have seen them. In fact, the lady next door has about 20 in her garden right now.
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Votes: +24
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written by Resume, December 18, 2008
Allison Smith is clearly a gnomeophobe.
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Votes: +21
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written by Tristan Noel, December 18, 2008
Sadly, this frame of logic will be lost on a good lot of the Woo crowd, stating clearly that "Oh, that's just silliness. See, we here at "(insert ghost hunting group name here)" are serious about this." It doesn't disturb me that there are people that are fans of the show, being a fan of something is relatively okay...

What disturbs me is that there are people spending real dollars and real hours trying to do this sort of stuff at home. I really do wish that things like Mythbusters had this sort of following. While Jamie and Adam could learn a few things about the scientific method and control/variable usage in some rare instances, they do a pretty good job at tearing down modern and ancient myths in an entertaining way...

Perhaps it's because the audience wants to be decieved? They desire to be played for the fool?
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Votes: +8
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written by Able, December 18, 2008
"Allison Smith is clearly a gnomeophobe" smilies/cheesy.gif (cracked me up). Maybe the audience does want (or hope) to be decieved but I dont think they want to played for the fool. It just turns out that way.
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written by Ian Mason, December 18, 2008
At last! An explanation for why I can't do maths and never could. And completely unchallengable because it's a religious belief, almost as good as "faith can move mountains so I don't have to learn geography". smilies/cheesy.gif
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Votes: +6
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written by BillyJoe, December 18, 2008
You ask to hear the recording again, and he plays it back to you, this time with you listening specifically for a sound that is close to “I am Gnome.” And, after he plays it again, you can sort of hear it that way

Somewhere on the internet, there is a recording of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" played backwards. It sounds like gibberish. It is then re-played with a translation for you to read whilst listening to it again. Now, suddenly, it no longer sounds like gibberish!
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written by BillyJoe, December 18, 2008
Allison Smith is clearly a gnomeophobe.

But there is absolutely no reason for Allison to be afraid of these little fellas.
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Votes: -1
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written by TDjazz, December 19, 2008
"...Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" played backwards....sounds like gibberish."

Actually, it sounds like gibberish even played correctly--but it's really good gibberish. smilies/wink.gif
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written by Careyp74, December 19, 2008
Great article! Well thought out. Kudos.

Favorite quote - "They even have t-shirts."
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Votes: +2
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written by Scazman, December 19, 2008
"Somewhere on the internet, there is a recording of Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" played backwards"

http://jeffmilner.com/backmasking.htm

What more proof do you need? Play Kermit the frog 'its not easy being green' backwards and listen to him espouse the virtues of scientology !
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Votes: +5
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written by Alan3354, December 19, 2008
Add a collection plate, and it's a religion.
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written by cwniles, December 19, 2008
Nice artice

GVP.....thats hilarious.


thanks for posting, that is all.
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Votes: +2
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written by Skeptigirl, December 19, 2008
So easy to see when gnome is the object, yet so difficult to see when you substitute 'God' in the story.
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Votes: +3
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written by BillyJoe, December 19, 2008
So easy to see when gnome is the object, yet so difficult to see when you substitute 'God' in the story.

Why does someone always have to spoil a good joke.
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written by BillyJoe, December 19, 2008
...Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" played backwards....sounds like gibberish."
Actually, it sounds like gibberish even played correctly

Granted, Robert Plant is no poet. Ian Anderson once suggested that the two of them get together and produce an album, with Robert writing the music and Ian writing the lyrics. Robert did not take that well. However, he did reach some sort of "higher mental plane" with his "Stairway to Heaven".

Do you not understand the lyrics?
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written by Retromancy, December 19, 2008
How can you say Gnomes aren't real? - I had to Google and here is undeniable, blurry poorly shot proof!
http://www.geekologie.com/2008...y_as_i.php
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written by Ian Mason, December 19, 2008
It's very small. I thought it would be egnomus. smilies/cheesy.gif Sorry, just couldn't resist it.
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written by BillyJoe, December 19, 2008
It's a good thing I don't worry about the voting around here.
Lighten up you lot.
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written by Cuddy Joe, December 20, 2008
"There's no business like gnome business like no business I knooooow......."
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written by Ian Mason, December 20, 2008
Gnome sweet gnome! smilies/grin.gif
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written by dr pepper, December 23, 2008
Ah, that explains wh i can't get my house clean. For years i've been trying to attract brownies, which are well know to be friendly, helpful, and domestic. I now realize that the activities of the antisocial and destructive gnomes has been driving the brownies away. I need to call GnomeBusters.
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written by Ian Mason, December 23, 2008
Can't we send them all home to Zurich?
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Votes: +1

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