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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Urban Myths and Paranormal spin

By Pastor Baz

Do you ever check the pages of the Crypto or Paranormal blogs to be confronted with information that is so incredible you don't know how to process it?

Welcome to the World Wide Weird web where you can say anything without having to prove it.

When I first became a Christian someone sent me an email about Siberian Miners drilling into Hell and recording voices screaming in there.
The problem was this - as I asked questions (to other Christians of course), people seemed to find a lot of reasons to keep implying it was true.

There were/are articles, websites, sound clips - you name it - to support this story.
I remember in my 'evangelical fervour' printing copies of the story and giving it to work colleagues because the story supported an agenda I had - to see them come to know Jesus Christ. Why not just scare them into that relationship :)

But it was debunked years ago, and one web search of Snopes.com would have showed me that it was an urban myth http://www.snopes.com/religion/wellhell.asp

But that didn't happen. In fact I'd never heard of Snopes. And so the myth was perpetuated. By me!!!

There are blogs I love going to. Every month I can't wait to see the latest stories. But the reason we only post 'real life stories' on our page that we have done the interviewing for is because.....well.........we don't want to sell you some sort of paranormal spin. There are so many tales out there that are mind blowing, but there isn't one shred of evidence that it happened.

The truth could be said about any stories including my own - at times I was the only witness or interviewer.

I can't tell you how many times since I have become a Pastor that I've redirected an email for a missing child, for the banning of the Bible and the instituting of the Q'ran in schools - or some other mass email with a multitude of signatures back to the person (usually an intelligent, compassionate person as well) gently asking them to check a link debunking it,

It's hard to let go sometimes. I mean, as an example you see the Dogman footage and part of you wants to go 'wow, could it be true' even though it reeks of Blair Witch Project set up. Or you read about the Beast of Bray Road or the Skin Walker Ranch in Utah http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skinwalker_Ranch or the possibility or living Dinosaurs, strange creatures and time slips, ghosts and shadowy beings so often reported in the True Tales section of one of the largest Para sites (with a disclaimer of course).. You see it and everything in you is going 'this can't be real' so why does part of us want it to be?

But for those people experiencing the phenomenon being written about who are not hoaxing, they are on the other side going 'why can't someone just believe me'.

It's a tough thing learning discernment in an intangible realm. You understand why skeptics read the squabbles on blogs and go 'these guys are disagreeing on the details of something no-one else even believes in or has even been proven to exist".

So my New Years resolution is to grow and be more mature with due diligence, to look at things more objectively and to first try to debunk via references where possible before jumping on the bandwagon. To try and filter things in a broader way. To work hard at ensuring that we maintain integrity on this page and not be influenced by page load numbers in terms of how effective we are. That can, and has, been the undoing of a number of researchers as they 'cook' a story to make it hotter and more appealing to the audience.

For them, the fallout has been enormous and the cost personally and to the 'industry' is summed up in one word 'credibility'.

So truth matters and the way we do reports and analyse the facts is incredibly important.

So what are your New Years resolutions and what are your thoughts on hoaxes, urban myths, investigation methodologies, the web or if you are on the other side - how does it feel when no-one believes your story?

We'd love to hear from you in this blog.

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