How to convince people about the supernatural (without sounding crazy)
After linking up with psychic Luke Jermay, who performs at the York Basement, The Yorker asked you to submit articles themed around the supernatural to share your own views, opinions and experiences. Here, we bring you a piece from the second of our two winners.
If you were to start talking about a supernatural experience, the general reaction is usually one of scepticism. And as a sociology/psychology student, I would be lying if I said I didn’t share those views for the most part.
So when timetabled a lecture on the paranormal and supernatural in society, I couldn’t help but moan. But being a bit of a Derren Brown fan (and realising I wasn’t actually hungover), I really didn’t have a valid excuse not to go. Two hours later with an attempt at keeping an open mind, I would hardly say I had been converted.
However, it was hard to argue that the supernatural is not a fascinating subject. So with a view on getting home and wanting to watch even more ‘tricks of the mind’, one feature of the lecture still managed to follow me back. This feature was merely a basic discursive device, used in order to describe extraordinary events in an ordinary manner; simply taking the form of ‘I was just doing x... when y happened’.
A rather plain concept you might say, but none the less it makes perfect common sense in theory. Imagine someone running up to you exclaiming “Hey, I just saw the actual woman in black!” you would probably think them to be nothing short of bonkers. However insert a simple “I was just chilling and watching Take Me Out, when a ghost appeared”, that someone’s account suddenly becomes much more plausible, solely down to them being ordinary in the first place (providing you like Take Me Out of course).
Wanting to see if this actually worked, I decided to put the theory to the test. That night at home, I told my housemates that whilst in bed the night before, I woke up to hearing noises and thinking I’d seen someone in my room... bad choice. Remembering I lived with 4 very easily frightened girls (I’ve been given giant woks with orders to search the house at 3am before); this was clearly the wrong group of people to tell tales of the supernatural to.
After lots of tea and views of Parry Gripps’ ‘baby monkey going backwards on a pig’, calm was restored and I set about asking a more ‘appropriate’ audience. Using the classic “I saw a ghost/spirit” story, I told the first half of people I spoke to this straightforward version without the ‘being ordinary’ introduction.
The broad response: “Darren, you’re an idiot”. True, yet still rather harsh I felt, this was the reaction I expected. Now prefacing this story with “I was just walking down the street” to display how ordinary I obviously am, the reaction slightly differed. Despite the word ‘idiot’ still being thrown about, people were generally more sympathetic, suggesting I was just seeing things or still drunk.
Does this mean the theory works? Well it can certainly make you look less like a raving lunatic if you can provide an everyday context to your supernatural experience. It shows you being innocent, ordinary and most importantly sane. However sadly it still most definitely does not mean people will believe you!
So how about a more constructive use for example instead: “I was just sitting down, watching a bit of Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents and definitely not touching anything, when your sandwich in the fridge magically disappeared”. Pretty sure this same language feature can be used to get away with doing naughty things that you shouldn’t have done.
Not that I condone stealing your housemates sandwiches in any way whatsoever...