It’s sometimes difficult to understand certain paranormal experiences if one has no prior experience of them. For instance, a person who has never experienced “seeing” a dead person’s spirit standing before them may not understand those who do. Often, these experiences are written off as a dream or some kind of hallucination. Sometimes intuitives and mediums “hear” the dead around them, or can sense when death is near. In tests of these phenomena, medical specialists are more apt to diagnose them as schizophrenic or experiencing manic-depressive psychosis than to admit that what they see is somehow real.
While persons with schizophrenia do indeed hear voices at certain times, the inverse is not true: a percentage of people who hear voices – as much as 10% of the population – are not mentally ill. Hearing voices is a normal mode of experience for them.
There are anecdotal stories surrounding the idea of the perception of things we have never seen or experienced. As an example, there is a story about African bushmen, upon first seeing a modern video camera, couldn’t perceive it. They saw nothing. Their worldview was such that they had no way of understanding the geometry (let alone the technical aspects) of the device, so they blanked it out. Only after having their hands placed on the camera did they begin to perceive a shape. The same has been said about ancient explorers’ ships when first encountering a native people. The natives could not perceive the ships anchored offshore because they had never seen such things before.
Most of us come to the paranormal through our own specific experiences.
As a child, an individual might awaken one morning to find an unfamiliar man dressed in strange clothes standing at the foot of his bed. The child and the man say nothing, but simply gaze at each other. The child may not show fear of this experience because he had been experiencing similar things his whole, young life. Then suppose the man fades out of existence while the child watches. Later he may mention it to his parents, who don’t subscribe to the idea of ghosts, hauntings, or the paranormal at all. They write it off as a dream, invalidating the child’s vision.
However, say the child tells his grandmother about it, whose mind is more open to such things. She tells the child to describe the man to her, which he does. Later that day, the grandmother receives a call from a relative stating that Uncle Joe, a pig farmer in a nearby town, suffered a heart attack and fell into the pig sty whilst feeding them, and the pigs made a meal of him. The grandmother recalls her grandchild’s vision and asks what Joe had been wearing. The relative describes him exactly as her grandchild had. She could dismiss it as coincidence, but instead encourages the boy to tell her any time he has an experience. She nurtures his talent, unbeknownst to the child’s parents, who might keep the child away from his grandparents, not wanting his head filled with the grandmother’s superstitious twaddle.
Why did the grandmother believe the boy? Likely because she’d had similar experiences in her lifetime and was not treated as odd or an outcast, but encouraged like she had her grandchild.
Our adult experiences are fed by our learned perceptions in childhood. If we’ve never experienced the playful tricks of a poltergeist, then we won’t recognize them when something happens that we aren’t easily able to explain.
We humans often struggle to come up with justifications for things we don’t understand and have never experienced. The African bushmen might have thought that the video camera was an evil manifestation of some kind, of which they were well-versed. In the Salem witch trials, men, women, and children died horrible deaths because of the wrongful perceptions and inexperience of the town’s citizens. Encountering something we have never seen before or struggle to understand makes us fearful. Our minds then hurry to provide an explanation, however bizarre and misinformed it might be.
You’ll hear many times that paranormal investigators experienced phenomena as early as childhood. It’s a common thread, and likely that their skill was nurtured by a family member or family friend, or by self-learning. Such experiences kindle a fascination with things unseen and unknown and frequently follows them well into adulthood, feeding their need to find answers.
There are numerous ways in which a person’s abilities can manifest. The most well-known are:
There are also myriad combinations of these abilities. For example, the child mentioned above experienced a form of clairvoyance and mediumship in which he “saw” the apparition of a soon-to-be deceased relative. He had been previously unaware that such a person as Uncle Joe existed, so it would be difficult to prove that he hadn’t simply used his imagination to create the vision.
Unfortunately, fraud is common among those who claim to have paranormal or supernatural abilities, which in turn sullies the reputations of honest and true practitioners of these abilities. If there’s money to be made, you can be sure that unscrupulous persons will come up with a way to defraud others. This has made it harder than ever to believe convincing and real paranormal phenomena.
Those with true abilities have come a long way, but still must face the doubts and fears of the inexperienced and unknowning until such time when we are able to test phenomena successfully.