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← How to seek the paranormal | Carrie Poppy | TEDxVienna

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Showing Revision 5 created 03/03/2017 by Krystian Aparta.

  1. Eight years ago, I was haunted
    by an evil spirit.
  2. I was 25 at the time,

  3. and I was living in a tiny house
    behind someone else's house
  4. in Los Angeles.
  5. It was this guest house,
    it had kind of been dilapidated,
  6. not taken care of for a long time.
  7. And one night, I was sitting there
  8. and I got this really spooky feeling,
  9. kind of the feeling
    like you're being watched.
  10. But no one was there except my two dogs,
  11. and they were just chewing their feet.
  12. And I looked around. No one was there.
  13. And I thought, OK,
    it's just my imagination.
  14. But the feeling just kept getting worse,
  15. and I started to feel
    this pressure in my chest,
  16. sort of like the feeling
    when you get bad news.
  17. But it started to sink lower and lower
  18. and almost hurt.
  19. And over the course of that week,
    this feeling got worse and worse,

  20. and I started to become convinced
    that something was there
  21. in my little guest house, haunting me.
  22. And I started to hear these sounds,

  23. this "whoosh," kind of whisper,
    like something passing through me.
  24. I called my best friend, Claire, and said,
  25. "I know this is going to sound crazy,
  26. but, um ...
  27. I think there's a ghost in my house,
    and I need to get rid of it."
  28. And she said -- she's very
    open-minded -- and she said,
  29. "I don't think you're crazy.
  30. I think you just need
    to do a cleansing ritual."
  31. (Laughter)

  32. "So get some sage and burn it,

  33. and tell it to go away."
  34. So I said, "OK,"
    and I went and I bought sage.

  35. I had never done this before,
    so I set the sage on fire,
  36. waved it about, and said, "Go away!
    This is my house! I live here.
  37. You don't live here!"
  38. But the feeling stayed.
    Nothing got better.
  39. And then I started to think,
  40. OK, well now this thing is probably
    just laughing at me,
  41. because it hasn't left,
  42. and I probably just look like
    this impotent, powerless thing
  43. that couldn't get it to go away.
  44. So every day I'd come home

  45. and you guys, this feeling got so bad
    that -- I mean, I'm laughing at it now --
  46. but I would sit there in bed
    and cry every night.
  47. And the feeling on my chest
    got worse and worse.
  48. It was physically painful.
  49. And I even went to a psychiatrist
  50. and tried to get her
    to prescribe me medicine,
  51. and she wouldn't just because
    I don't have schizophrenia, OK.
  52. (Laughter)

  53. So finally I got on the internet,
    and I Googled "hauntings."
  54. And I came upon this forum
    of ghost hunters.
  55. But these were a special
    kind of ghost hunters --
  56. they were skeptics.
  57. They believed that every case of ghosts
    that they had investigated so far
  58. had been explained away by science.
  59. And I was like, "OK, smart guys,
    this is what's happening to me,
  60. and if you have an explanation for me,
    I would love to hear it."
  61. And one of them said, "OK.

  62. Um, have you heard
    of carbon monoxide poisoning?"
  63. And I said, "Yeah.

  64. Like, gas poisoning?"
  65. Carbon monoxide poisoning
    is when you have a gas leak

  66. leaking into your home.
  67. I looked it up, and the symptoms
    of carbon monoxide poisoning
  68. include a pressure on your chest ...
  69. (Laughter)
  70. auditory hallucinations -- whoosh --
  71. and an unexplained feeling of dread.
  72. So that night, I called the gas company.
  73. I said, "I have an emergency.
    I need you to come out.
  74. I don't want to get into the story now,
    but I need you to come out."
  75. (Laughter)

  76. They came out. I said,
    "I suspect a gas leak."

  77. They brought their carbon
    monoxide detector,
  78. and the man said,
  79. "It's a really good thing
    that you called us tonight,
  80. because you could have been
    dead very soon."
  81. Thirty-seven percent of Americans
    believe in haunted houses,

  82. and I wonder how many of them
    have been in one
  83. and how many of them have been in danger.
  84. So that haunting story
    has led me to my job.

  85. I'm an investigator,
    and I'm an investigator in two senses:
  86. I'm an investigative journalist,
  87. and I'm also an investigator
    of the claims of the paranormal
  88. and claims of the spiritual.
  89. And that means a few things.
  90. Sometimes that means that I'm pretending
    to need an exorcism
  91. so I can get -- yes, that's right! --
    so I can go to an exorcist
  92. and see if he's using gimmicks
    or psychological tricks
  93. to try to convince someone
    that they're possessed.
  94. Sometimes that means
    I'm going undercover in a fringe group
  95. which I report on
    for a podcast that I co-host.
  96. And I've done over 70 investigations
    like this with my co-host, Ross.
  97. And I would love to tell you
    that nine times out of 10, science wins,
  98. saves the day, it's all explained.
  99. That's not true.
  100. The truth is, 10 times out of 10,
    science wins, it saves the day.
  101. (Laughter)
  102. (Applause)

  103. (Applause ends)
  104. And that doesn't mean
    there's no such thing as a mystery.

  105. Of course there are mysteries,
    but a mystery is a mystery.
  106. It is not a ghost.
  107. Now, I believe there are
    two kinds of truth,

  108. and it's taken me a while to get
    to this place, but I think this is right,
  109. so hear me out.
  110. I think there is outer truth
    and there's inner truth.
  111. So if you say to me,
  112. "There was a man named Jesus
    and he once existed,"
  113. that's outer truth, right?
  114. And we can go and look
    at the historical record.
  115. We can determine
    whether that seems to be true.
  116. And I would argue,
    it does seem to be true.
  117. If you say, "Jesus rose
    from the dead," -- ooh, trickier.
  118. (Laughter)

  119. I would say that's an outer-truth claim,

  120. because he physically rose or he didn't.
  121. I'm not going to get into
    whether he rose or he didn't,
  122. but I would say
    that's an outer-truth claim.
  123. It happened or it didn't happen.
  124. But if you say, "I don't care
    whether he rose from the dead.
  125. It's symbolically important to me,
  126. and that metaphor is so meaningful,
    so purposeful to me,
  127. and I'm not going to try
    to persuade you of it,"
  128. now you've moved it
    from outer truth to inner truth,
  129. from science to art.
  130. And I think we have a tendency
    to not be clear about this,
  131. to try to move our inner truths
    to outer truths,
  132. or to not be fair about it to each other,
  133. and when people are telling us
    their inner truths,
  134. to try to make them defend them
    by outer-truth standards.
  135. So I'm talking here about outer truth,
    about objective things.

  136. And there was an objective reality
    in my haunted house, right?
  137. Now that I've told you about the gas leak,
  138. I doubt a single person here
    would be like,
  139. "I still think there was a ghost, too."
  140. (Laughter)

  141. Because as soon as we have
    these scientific explanations,

  142. we know to give up the ghost.
  143. We use these things as stopgaps
    for things that we can't explain.
  144. We don't believe them because of evidence;
  145. we believe them because
    of a lack of evidence.
  146. So there is a group in Los Angeles

  147. called the Independent
    Investigations Group, or the IIG,
  148. and they do great work.
  149. They'll give a $10,000 prize
  150. to anyone who can show,
    under scientific conditions,
  151. that they have a paranormal ability.
  152. No one's done it yet,
  153. but they've had a couple people
    who claim that they were clairaudients,
  154. which means that they can hear voices
    either from the great beyond
  155. or they can read minds.
  156. And they had one person
    who was very sincere,
  157. who believed that he could read minds.
  158. So they set up a test with him,
    and this is the way it always works.
  159. The group says, "OK, we have a protocol,
  160. we have a way to scientifically test this.
  161. Do you agree with it?"
  162. The person says yes. Then they test it.
  163. It's very important that both sides agree.
  164. They did that, they tested him.
  165. They said, "OK, you know what?
  166. You weren't able to predict
    what Lisa was thinking.
  167. It matched up about the same as chance.
  168. Looks like you don't have the power."
  169. And that gave them the opportunity

  170. to compassionately sit down with him
    and have a very difficult discussion,
  171. which basically amounted to,
  172. "Hey, we know you're sincere,
    and what that means is,
  173. you do hear something in your head."
  174. And that guy got to make
    the very difficult decision,

  175. but really the life-changing decision
    about whether to go get help.
  176. We're actually helping people
    to make these connections
  177. that maybe before seemed like
    otherworldly explanations,
  178. help draw us into reality
    and maybe change our lives for the better.
  179. Now, on the other hand,
    maybe one time it'll turn out to be true.

  180. Maybe we'll find out there are ghosts,
  181. and holy shit, it will be the best thing!
  182. And every time I do
    one of these investigations,
  183. I still get so excited,
  184. and I'm like 75 into them,
  185. and still I swear on number 76,
    I'm going to be like, "This is the one!"
  186. (Laughter)

  187. Maybe I'm just eternally optimistic,
    but I hope I never lose this hope,

  188. and I invite you to take
    this same attitude
  189. when people share
    their outer beliefs with you.
  190. When talking about testable claims,
  191. respect them enough to ask
    these good questions.
  192. Challenge and see
    how you can examine them together,
  193. because there's this idea
    that you can't respect a belief
  194. and still challenge it,
    but that's not true.
  195. When we jiggle the lock,
    when we test the claim,
  196. we're saying, OK, I respect you,
    I'm listening to what you're saying,
  197. I'm going to test it out with you.
  198. We've all had that experience
    where you're telling someone something,
  199. and they're like, "Oh,
    that's really interesting, yeah,"
  200. you know you're being had.
  201. But when someone says, "Really? Huh.
  202. Sounds a little sketchy to me,
    but I'm listening,"
  203. you at least know
    you're being engaged and respected.
  204. And that's the kind of attitude
    we should have with these claims.
  205. That's showing someone
    that you care what they're saying.
  206. That's respect.
  207. Now, yes, most of these searches
    will come up empty,

  208. but that's how all of science works.
  209. Every cure for cancer so far
    has not panned out,
  210. but we don't stop looking,
  211. for two reasons.
  212. Because number one, the answer matters.
  213. Whether it's looking at the afterlife
    or the paranormal or the cure for cancer,
  214. it all amounts to the same question:
  215. How long will we be here?
  216. And two, because looking for the truth,

  217. being open-minded,
  218. and being willing to be wrong
    and to change your whole worldview
  219. is awe-inspiring.
  220. I still get excited at ghost stories
    every single time.

  221. I still consider that every group
    I join might be right,
  222. and I hope I never lose that hope.
  223. Let's all never lose that hope,
  224. because searching for what's out there
  225. helps us understand what's in here.
  226. And also, please have
    a carbon monoxide detector in your home.
  227. (Laughter)
  228. Thank you.

  229. (Applause)