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15 November, 2007

How I exorcised a poltergeist

A few weeks ago, some strange episodes occurred in my home. Several times, I woke up in the early hours to find none of the lights working in my home. A couple of times, I also found one of the gas rings of my cooker turned on. Strange puddles of water appeared on my bathroom floor, when I knew no-one had used it, and a plumber initially failed to find the cause. To make matters even worse, my bathroom fan kept making weird grumbling noises, sounding for all the world like an eerie, growling voice. At around the same time, some of my electrical equipment went nuts. The TV kept cycling through its various AV channels without anyone touching the TV or the remote control. Also, the digital cable box would suddenly start rapidly flipping through all its channels, and both my cable box and VCR started responding erratically to the TV remote. None of the appliances were made by the same manufacturer, and the TV remote is not one of those one-for-all jobs. So what the heck was happening?

I was intrigued, but resisted the urge to connect the dots and call it a phenomenon. One of my friends was so spooked when I told her about it, she became convinced I had a poltergeist, and cancelled a visit. But being me, I decided there were logical explanations for all these events.

The answer to the question of who was turning the gas on, came fairly quickly. I was just outside the kitchen one night, when I heard the metallic thump of a cat landing on my cooker lid. It was my elderly female cat, who is quite clumsy these days. As she leapt off again, she used one of the cooker knobs as a launch pad - and promptly turned the gas on with one of her rear paws. I'm pleased to say she's abandoned that habit.

I solved the strange puddle mystery a few days later. I had a pipe which was leaking only intermittently - hence the reason the plumber had missed it. I called him back, and after a quick repair, the puddles are no more. I also called an electrician to look at the talking extractor fan. Rain had been getting into it through the external vent, causing an electrical fault, which led the fan to emit weird electrical growls.

The puzzle of the lights took a little longer to solve. Early one morning, whilst it was still dark, my doorbell gave a very brief chime, before cutting out. As it did so, all the lights died. The doorbell is on the same circuit as the lights. I only heard its brief, feeble chime because I was standing right below it. It turned out that I had a faulty doorbell, and whenever anyone rang it, it would trip the lighting circuit.

There was still the mystery of the crazy audio-visual equipment. I reasoned that there had to be an equipment malfunction somewhere, to cause the strange events. Taking my reasoning further, I realized the TV, cable box and VCR are all interconnected with Scart leads. After a brief fiddle around at the backs of the appliances, I discovered a Scart lead that was virtually hanging off the back of the cable box. I pushed it right the way in, and checked all the other cables, and lo and behold! I'd exorcised my poltergeist.

The point I'm trying to make, is that all apparently paranormal events need to be approached logically, with a healthy dose of scepticism. Imagine if I'd become hysterical and called in the ghostbusters? How embarrassing could that have been? I'm sure many cases of so-called paranormal phenomena have had equally mundane explanations, but people are often all too keen to see a supernatural influence where none exists. It is for this reason that all claims of a paranormal nature need to be investigated thoroughly, with every plausible explanation explored, before applying the unexplained label. Every other possible cause must be eliminated, before a high strangeness factor can be confirmed. But in doing so, be careful not to become a serial debunker, or you may just miss one of the greatest discoveries of your lifetime.


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