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Ghost seance goes wrong - Comments

DocWebster's Avatar Comment 1 by DocWebster

What power do they have over you exactly. I wouldn't go out of my way to give an inch to them but if they can fire up the pitchforks and torches crowd against you I would seriously look at the level of BS I was ready to wade into and act accordingly. I personally would make the moron and her priest the objects of ridicule and scorn but that's me, I'm an a-hole that loves to make imbeciles shake with impotent rage.

Tue, 15 May 2012 17:27:00 UTC | #941637

The Jersey Devil's Avatar Comment 2 by The Jersey Devil

At first, I was almost amused, but as the problem unfolded, I'm not anymore.

In what way has the problem unfolded? Was your job threatened? What kind of laws are there in the Czeck Republic to protect you, if any?

Tue, 15 May 2012 19:00:10 UTC | #941660

Aguazul's Avatar Comment 3 by Aguazul

I am not religious, but I have studied jungle traditions here in Peru and IMHO there is certainly more to reality than is normally understood by town-dwelling natives of reason-oriented cultures. Getting away from safe havens, things get weirder. It is clear to me that we are nowhere near explaining everything yet. Just like every generation of scientists' ideas are expanded and sometimes overturned by the next, there is more to the world than our current understanding of it. Familiarity with these weirder aspects of the world makes them understandable and predictable in their own way, manageable perhaps, but you're not in that position. You're playing around imitating occult practices without any understanding or precaution. Did you think to test first that imitating these practices would cause no ill-effects? Or did you base your actions on theory and received wisdom? If I were a chemistry teacher and I was going to demonstrate a potentially dangerous reaction to my class, I'd prefer to test it first away from the class, rather than purely relying on what other people say. You act like you think that you know all there is to know, when generations of scientists have demonstrated that their knowledge is always incomplete. The best scientists know that very clearly. Certainly, do experiments to expand your knowledge, but not arrogantly assuming that you already know the answer. Make a theory and test it. Call the "dark powers" and then verify that no ill comes of it, if you really want to. But IMHO you mustn't pre-assume the experimental result, or else what kind of scientific experiment would it be?

After all my study, I am relatively strong, so I think I could do this experiment and 'prove' that no ill comes from it, despite the fears of those others involved in the situation, due to my own power to keep the ill away. Perhaps this is your motivation? To prove that superstition can be defeated? But you must be strong enough. Probably my opinion doesn't sit well with atheists here, though -- sorry -- but I'm out here in the field, and not all of reality fits our current Western-scientific view of the world.

Tue, 15 May 2012 19:30:42 UTC | #941668

Serdan's Avatar Comment 4 by Serdan

@OP: I don't really have enough information about your situation, but I'd say: do what's best for the children.
I should add that I think what you've done is brilliant. I wish I'd had a teacher as awesome as you.



@Aguazul: Yes, we must always check under the bed for monsters.

Tue, 15 May 2012 21:21:11 UTC | #941694

cynicaloptimistrealist's Avatar Comment 5 by cynicaloptimistrealist

To the OP, I think you need to explain to your concerned colleague that the children were performing a script. She is obviously extremely superstitious and resonably dismissing her fears point by point may diffuse the confrontation. Go ahead and make the film, make it known that it is a scripted ghost story. There should be no reason for anyone to object. The fact is that the children contributed to this story, the children had no issue with it, I presume you didn't wake up in the middle of the night to find your lawn populated by villagers carrying flaming torches while angrily waving pitchforks, so there's no need to worry. The parents haven't complained and I am sure their children have told them about the project as something like this would be quite exciting for them, so you're dealing with one parent who has either misunderstood the course of events or is living in the dark ages. Either way, it sounds like you have the support of your other colleagues.

To Aguazul, I had to read your post several times to be sure that I wasn't misunderstanding your point, then I started searching for the punch line, but I found none. Having spent time traveling around different villages in China (officially atheist apart from the religion that is the CCP but in reality very superstitious) and Taiwan, I do agree that the further you travel from large population centres the stranger beliefs become. However, reality for the witches, traditional healers and psychics I encountered was a reality revealed by the previous generation, not one of them innovated, tested new ideas or techniques, so the knowledge they claim to represent never expands. I've watched people throwing bones on the floor to predict the outcome of my journey (that's the equivalent of me drawing a card from a deck and deciding to stay in bed if I draw anything less than a 10), had a guy study my finger and tell me that I drink too much (I drink about 6 times a year at most) and was warned not to spend the night in an old un-populated village because of "screaming ghosts" who turned out cats in the heat of passion (that did scare me - a screaming beast with 4 reflective eyes is enough to make anyone jump). I am not a scientist, but I have a curiousity about almost everything and I understand that the more I learn about something the more I realise how little I know about it. Traditional believers are much more "arrogant" in their certaintity that the events around them occur at the caprice of spirits or gods, agreeable results appear when rituals were performed correctly, unfortunate results where rituals were not observed to the letter or some taboo was broken. To illustrate my point, I spent some time with a Paiwan tribe (a people I have tremendous respect for) in southern Taiwan after a devestating typhoon during which great parts of jungle covered mountains collapsed into the valleys below. Many older people blamed the government for diverting part of a river, thus angering the spirits.

Filip is not unleashing an unknown experiment on his students, they are performing a script just like the ones you see in many horror movies, tv shows and books - if you have data that suggests that actors in horror movies and authors of ghost stories are less fortunate than the average person because they mess with "dark powers" that they cannot control or understand, I would love to see it. Chemistry teachers demonstrating experiments to students are demonstrating tried and tested experiments which are only new to the students, in a way that's exactly what Filip is doing in his media studies class by asking his students to write and film a ghost story which is also a tried and tested media topic.

Probably my opinion doesn't sit well with atheists here, though -- sorry -- but I'm out here in the field, and not all of reality fits our current Western-scientific view of the world.

The first part of this sentence is correct, no need to apologise we all have different views. The second part leads me to wonder which field you're in, is it per chance the one filled with those white stemmed pointy brown capped mushrooms that people seem to eat raw? The "current Western-scientific view of the world" constantly grows and adapts, it is never satisfied with leaving things alone because they are poorly understood.

Tue, 15 May 2012 21:21:17 UTC | #941695

Bernard Hurley's Avatar Comment 6 by Bernard Hurley

It sounds like a great film to me and it would be a pity to abandon it as the children will be disappointed after the work they have put in to it. I have taught in primary and secondary schools, further education colleges and universities in the UK and in all situations where conflicts have arisen I have always considered my prime duty to be towards my students. Something like this would make me want to fight even harder.

Tue, 15 May 2012 21:36:48 UTC | #941698

Wiwaxia's Avatar Comment 7 by Wiwaxia

In 1983 I was training as an English teacher in the South East of England. On my teaching practice I read some Shakespeare with a class of year 7 students (aged 11 -12), and got them to write their own versions of 'spells' - to be finished off for homework. The Head of English had approved my lesson, and my tutor from college watched me teach it. The next day one of the students presented me with a letter from her parents saying that they would not allow her to do the homework as this was dangerous and could awaken dark forces. The Head of English expressed some exasperation and told me to tell her not to bother with doing the homework. At this point another teacher shouted out across the staffroom that what I was doing was unacceptable, that the girl's parents were absolutely right, that Macbeth was dangerous, and should not be taught. What I found most shocking about this was that the teacher was a science teacher, specifically a biology teacher. What happened? I was quietly advised to change the topic for the next lesson.

Tue, 15 May 2012 22:12:36 UTC | #941704

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 8 by QuestioningKat

It is clear to me that we are nowhere near explaining everything yet. Just like every generation of scientists' ideas are expanded and sometimes overturned by the next, there is more to the world than our current understanding of it. Familiarity with these weirder aspects of the world makes them understandable and predictable in their own way, manageable perhaps, but you're not in that position. You're playing around imitating occult practices without any understanding or precaution. Did you think to test first that imitating these practices would cause no ill-effects? Or did you base your actions on theory and received wisdom?

Baloney. Please start your own topic so we can properly address your beliefs separately.

IMO, there are no ghosts, so no harm can be created by poking fun at what does not exist!!

Rather than add ghosts, consider examining the film to show that NOTHING happened. See it for what it is - a bunch of kids running around acting like ghosts. I once watched some ghost hunter TV show. Basically the people hunting for ghosts were overreacting to little noises. "Ooo, I hear a noise. It must be a ghost." They jumped to conclusions. No, it was the pipes. Don't add anything to the film or at least not one version of the film. If you do add ghosts, do it for fun. See how special effects enhance the story. Get the kids to acknowledge that the only ghosts were themselves. Film a blank corner of the room and watch it for ten minutes. Nothing will happen. If you hear a noise. Find out the cause. Something will seem to happen only if you allow your imagination to create a story. We humans make up stories, but if you look closely, poof, it's gone. Help children to realize that when something unexplained happens, there is a need to do research to discover the cause. The first reaction would be to automatically assume it comes something "mystical." Encourage the children to dig deeper. Help them to acknowledge that we are the story makers and ghost creators.

I'm sure there are plenty of magic tricks that seem fantastic. Pick a few good ones, then reveal what is really going on.

Another idea is to just go ahead and finish what you started. You did not say what subject this project is for--- art, literature?? Just be sure that you justify the project according to the curriculum. If disputes come up then be sure to make it a teachable moment.

Sounds fun. I bet the kids enjoyed making the film. Be sure to have kids write credits. Do the editing, make movie posters, have a morning announcement, etc.

Wed, 16 May 2012 02:28:16 UTC | #941751

VrijVlinder's Avatar Comment 9 by VrijVlinder

So are you saying that ectoplasm is not possible? I was kind of hoping the field of study would yield something . Energy spectra.

What is more interesting would be to theorize that these ghosts are people from a parallel universe as string theory explains there are several parallel universes co existing but not interconnecting. Divided by a membrane which only certain particles can penetrate.

Maybe the ghosts are nothing more than short views into parallel universe. This idea takes all the superstition away and reasons using only science to arrive at these hypothesis .

Wed, 16 May 2012 04:20:09 UTC | #941771

Jumped Up Chimpanzee's Avatar Comment 10 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee

If the other teacher has no authority over you, then just carry on with the movie.

Don't allow the fact that someone else has a superstitious belief to affect what you do. It just demonstrates how much we are all (even most atheists) indoctrinated to respect other people's superstitious beliefs that you should even be remotely concerned about their ridiculous opinion, or feel the need to ask anyone for advice on what you should do.

Wed, 16 May 2012 10:14:53 UTC | #941798

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 11 by Schrodinger's Cat

Comment 4 by Serdan

Yes, we must always check under the bed for monsters.

I started to become a little suspicious when the monsters only ever seemed to be there after watching a scary movie.

Wed, 16 May 2012 14:19:37 UTC | #941845

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 12 by Schrodinger's Cat

I teach at a village primary school in Giant Mountains, Czech Republic. During lessons in narrating, we'd written a short movie script, which was to be filmed a week later. Children, aged 13, had written quite funny ghost stories, so last week we set the class up to film it.

Creepy music was put on, volunteers gathered around the table and started to ask for a ghost, moving a glass according to script. Others were hidden behind the school wardrobes moving various things around, as if many ghosts were present all over the class - but without us noticing. We were "terrified" only upon seeing the footage...

I'm not sure I'd want any kids of mine to be subject to some school's version of the Blair Witch Project.

Upon coming back from class, I was confronted by a teacher, who accused me of endangering the school by playing with the dark powers. She said the devil exists and it looks for opportunity to get here.

Well of course the teacher is over-reacting and silly, but that sort of misses the point that your whole setup has a rather creepy feel to it, whatever the intentions.

Wed, 16 May 2012 14:29:28 UTC | #941848

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 13 by crookedshoes

Ask the students to use the scientific method to debunk the film. Show the ludicrous posture that your "colleague" has adopted for what it is.

I routinely challenge ghosts and spirits to haunt me; in front of a classroom full of teenagers. The are amused and surprised and then we THINK about what reality would actually be like if there actually were ghosts.......

Well done with your lesson. It has provoked both thought and reaction. Most lessons do neither. As long as your life or livelihood is not threatened, I'd see this one through with the implicit understanding that I am making an enemy (not necessarily a bad thing).

Wed, 16 May 2012 14:32:09 UTC | #941849

zengardener's Avatar Comment 14 by zengardener

This is a wonderful example for the children.

They make up a story and then someone else swears that it is true.

A very valuable lesson.

Wed, 16 May 2012 17:46:05 UTC | #941882

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 15 by Alan4discussion

Comment 3 by Aguazul

Getting away from safe havens, things get weirder. It is clear to me that we are nowhere near explaining everything yet.

However this nonsense has been debunked numerous times.

Just like every generation of scientists' ideas are expanded and sometimes overturned by the next, there is more to the world than our current understanding of it. Familiarity with these weirder aspects of the world makes them understandable and predictable in their own way, manageable perhaps, but you're not in that position.

But only in terms of understanding psychology of superstitious beliefs and confused views

You're playing around imitating occult practices without any understanding or precaution.

As there are no cult members present, there is no risk from them!

Did you think to test first that imitating these practices would cause no ill-effects? Or did you base your actions on theory and received wisdom?

There are tests for woo-ology?? (Look 20,000 people tested it, and yet again nothing happened apart from a few times when the fakers were caught!)

If I were a chemistry teacher and I was going to demonstrate a potentially dangerous reaction to my class, I'd prefer to test it first away from the class, rather than purely relying on what other people say.

But then an experienced chemistry teacher would either know, calculate, of look up a report of the experiment. In any case the analogy confuses real risks in chemistry with imagined threats from "the occult".

You act like you think that you know all there is to know, when generations of scientists have demonstrated that their knowledge is always incomplete.

Knowledge of some science is incomplete. Knowledge of the alleged effects of occult and ghost stories are well known. ZERO CREDIBILITY!

The best scientists know that very clearly.

They also know how to avoid wasting their time on discredited nonsense!

Certainly, do experiments to expand your knowledge, but not arrogantly assuming that you already know the answer.

Ha! Ha! hha! - It's a children's film making exercise about fantasy ghosts being faked on film. It looks like you have been up the jungle for too long!

Wed, 16 May 2012 20:46:45 UTC | #941916

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 16 by Alan4discussion

Comment 13 by crookedshoes

I routinely challenge ghosts and spirits to haunt me;

As I understand it, the only spirits which have been scientifically proved to come back to haunt people, (usually the morning after) come in bottles with % or degrees-proof printed somewhere on the label!

Wed, 16 May 2012 21:02:02 UTC | #941918

Filip The Czech Teacher's Avatar Comment 17 by Filip The Czech Teacher

I only noticed now the thread is online with several reactions already - thank you for these! I'm driving to work in several hours so please accept some terseness: the second class was last Friday, we talked the controvesy and watched the short movie - it came out really nice on screen via projector. I had wanted to show the film to the headmaster but he after some amusement excused himself for dinner (which really was due)...Filming was discontinued apart from two students who borrowed the camera home. During the weekend the word "satanism" was dropped on me in the pub in connection to this affair, and though it was uttered in jovial manner, it made me cringe. I'll respond to comments tomorrow - some interesting new angles were opened to me thanks!

Wed, 16 May 2012 23:22:29 UTC | #941938

secularjew's Avatar Comment 18 by secularjew

If you are unable to placate the superstitious, you can perhaps speak the enemy's language (like in this clip from ZERT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGZX7oaDcQE ). For example, you can make mention of ghosts in the Bible (I'm sure the internet can help you with that), or perhaps push the nationalist button by mentioning the ghosts in the rich tradition of Czech folklore. Perhaps you can point out how you are ridiculing ghosts, and do not wish to give the kind of respect to the black arts that this woman seems to be giving. True Christians with Jesus in their heart have nothing to fear, and every story of the devil is a story about the need for Christ and his ultimate triumph. Why, you're practically doing God's work. But perhaps, you can just dismiss these charges as what they are: ridiculous. "Please, people, are we gonna be banning Shakespeare next because some ignoramus thinks Harry Potter is based on a true story."

Wed, 16 May 2012 23:39:21 UTC | #941939

sheepcat's Avatar Comment 19 by sheepcat

Does no one here watch "Most Haunted", ghosts are clearly very real, how else do you explain the spooky noises that occur when a camera crew and several presenters and guests wander around really old houses in the dark?

Thu, 17 May 2012 10:27:18 UTC | #942000

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 20 by Alan4discussion

Comment 18 by secularjew

"Please, people, are we gonna be banning Shakespeare next because some ignoramus thinks Harry Potter is based on a true story."

"Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble!"

Those evil teachers are being require to teach this stuff to children! OOOOoooooh! Some may even present dramatised or filmed versions! Horrors!

Devilish sacrilege - eh! Mac Duff???? What do you think Duncan?? Whoooooooooo!!

'No plans to drop Shakespeare from curriculum' - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-21544/No-plans-drop-Shakespeare-curriculum.html

Thu, 17 May 2012 10:53:37 UTC | #942003

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 21 by Mr DArcy

Alan4discussion:

As I understand it, the only spirits which have been scientifically proved to come back to haunt people, (usually the morning after) come in bottles with % or degrees-proof printed somewhere on the label!

Is this a stagger I see before me?

Thu, 17 May 2012 13:12:19 UTC | #942020

PERSON's Avatar Comment 22 by PERSON

Comment 9 by VrijVlinder

No, that just replaces a familiar silly story with an unfamiliar cargo cult one. Using ideas from science without the application of the scientific method is either science fiction or pseudo-science, just as a showman's slight of hand is either stage conjuring or a confidence trick.

Thu, 17 May 2012 14:37:58 UTC | #942034

Dave H's Avatar Comment 23 by Dave H

Keep the focus as you originally intended - teaching the kids how to make a movie and construct special effects. Keep it fun.

If you can get further mileage out of it afterwards by discussing the saying that "pictures don't lie" when in fact the kids know that the pictures that they made are "lies", then so much the better.

Thu, 17 May 2012 17:31:47 UTC | #942067

MilitantNonStampCollector's Avatar Comment 24 by MilitantNonStampCollector

Comment 19 by sheepcat

Does no one here watch "Most Haunted", ghosts are clearly very real, how else do you explain the spooky noises that occur when a camera crew and several presenters and guests wander around really old houses in the dark?

I managed a minute of it once but had to change channel before I put my coffee mug through the TV. It consists of: camera crews and idiotic "psychic types" who run around like imbeciles at night in spooky old buildings, listening for the slightest noise (as if a bloody noise is proof of a ghost) and looking their best to look scared. And of course they have already made up their minds that ghosts exist beforehand; one might as well watch schizophrenics talking to themselves.

In 2012, shows like Most Haunted are an embarrassment. The public needs to know that ghosts don't exist - it needs a sort of 'strident' Dawkins.

Fri, 18 May 2012 01:44:49 UTC | #942131

sheepcat's Avatar Comment 25 by sheepcat

In 2012, shows like Most Haunted are an embarrassment. The public needs to know that ghosts don't exist

The trouble is people WANT to believe in ghosts, I am regularly seen as a bit of an eccentric or even "strident" for telling people not to be ridiculous on issues like this, you can't prove there are no ghosts is the criticism, and then in that faux wise tone of voice, "the universe is far more complicated than you can understand with all your science",

aaaaarrrrggghhhh.

Fri, 18 May 2012 09:39:37 UTC | #942153

Katy Cordeth's Avatar Comment 26 by Katy Cordeth

The trouble is people WANT to believe in ghosts, I am regularly seen as a bit of an eccentric or even "strident" for telling people not to be ridiculous on issues like this, you can't prove there are no ghosts is the criticism, and then in that faux wise tone of voice, "the universe is far more complicated than you can understand with all your science",

aaaaarrrrggghhhh.

It's even worse when they say, "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy".

No, I'm sorry, but no. If you believe in ghosts and goblins, then you are not allowed to quote Shakespeare. When I become empress of earth (and trust me, the plans for that are already in place), the first law I will enact will be one which makes it legal to punch anybody who tries to invoke the Bard to bolster their feeble argument.

"Neither a borrower or a lender be. Shakespeare."

"No, not Shakespeare: Polonius. And Polonius was a boob, and Shakespeare knew it because he created him. Now give me the effing loan or I swear to God I'll torch this bank!"

Fri, 18 May 2012 12:41:44 UTC | #942169

sheepcat's Avatar Comment 27 by sheepcat

Katy, have you ever read Herodotus' Histories?

Apart from being really interesting in many ways one of the most fascinating things in the book is when the author states that in Africa there are giant fox sized ants, his proof? Some guy down the pub told his best mates dad, or something along those lines.

Sadly many people think that, "well my best mates Dads friend told his missus that he had seen a Ghost so it must be true" still constitutes a well thought out argument.

Just found this on wiki, maybe the poor old coot was just unlucky!

Peissel offers the theory that Herodotus may have become confused because the old Persian word for "marmot" was quite similar to that for "mountain ant". Because research suggests that Herodotus probably did not know any Persian (or any other language except his native Greek), he was forced to rely on a multitude of local translators when travelling in the vast multilingual Persian Empire. Therefore, he may have been the unwitting victim of a simple misunderstanding in translation. As Herodotus never claims to have himself seen these "ant/marmot" creatures, it is likely that he was simply reporting what other travellers were telling him, no matter how bizarre or unlikely he personally may have found it to be

Fri, 18 May 2012 13:39:17 UTC | #942178

hungarianelephant's Avatar Comment 28 by hungarianelephant

With a fair wind, there's no reason why unexpected seance results should hinder your career. You might still get to be President of the European Commission.

Fri, 18 May 2012 14:05:27 UTC | #942184

Filip The Czech Teacher's Avatar Comment 29 by Filip The Czech Teacher

The pupils had asked about the movie project today and were disappointed to hear the movie is considered to be finished (15minutes long). There's a lot of buzz about it around the village, so I offered copies to pupils to stop too vivid fantasies of some residents. My sincere appreciation for your views, I was somehow expecting more bashing for the dark-forces believing colleague and rallying support for ghost-dismantlement, but it's not this simple apparently! Maybe the project was a bit too creepy. I'll update if things heat up, still have no reaction from the priest now.

Fri, 18 May 2012 19:04:37 UTC | #942212

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 30 by Alan4discussion

Comment 25 by sheepcat

The trouble is people WANT to believe in ghosts, I am regularly seen as a bit of an eccentric or even "strident" for telling people not to be ridiculous on issues like this, you can't prove there are no ghosts is the criticism, and then in that faux wise tone of voice, "the universe is far more complicated than you can understand with all your science",

..And immensely more complicated than they can understand without the science. - Still to the simplistic, that's all right. After all, if it's dumb enough for then to form an impression of it, it must be OK !!!!

Fri, 18 May 2012 22:10:40 UTC | #942238