There are two major forces at work it seems in the field of the paranormal. On one side we have those who are on a personal and very serious quest for proof of the paranormal. And at the other side there are those who focus primarily on the story elements of the paranormal, celebrating the possibility that such events could have taken place rather than focusing on the concrete proof left behind. As the field progresses forward, it seems very likely that this is one of the debates the field will have to deal with.
First, those who want concrete evidence are those who wish to once and for all settle the matter of the paranormal through the collection of hard evidence and the disbelief of any story that relies on witness testimony solely or leaves too much to the imagination. Right from the start this group has its work cut out for it as it seems the very nature of these supernatural forces seems to somehow rebel against leaving behind any trace of evidence other than eyewitness testimony. And even this testimony is often unsure of anything other than the fact that something happened. We still cannot fathom precisely the forces at work, and therefore we are left wondering if the field should take new and innovative approaches to the question in the search for the truth.
And then there are those who focus on the folklore aspects of the paranormal suggesting ghost stories, tales of alien interaction with humans, the suggestion that the Jersey Devil may be out there lurking, and the idea that Big Cats could somehow spontaneously appear in any environment are more than enough to sustain the field. These individuals do not engage in conflict with skeptics, instead wishing only to learn more of the folklore and eyewitness accounts of others and look with interest at the possibility that each new ghost picture could be more than just a hoax. These individuals are the keepers of folklore and the tellers of legends, driven by an interest in all things Fortean and always alluding so something greater in the universe but never necessarily committing to its existence themselves. The willing suspension of disbelief is one of the tools they have when dealing with tales of Batsquatch or reading old tabloid newspapers.
So if the field is to move in new directions, how do we separate the stigma it receives from stories about presidential candidates receiving sponsorship from Batsquatch, and the more serious study of psychic phenomena and a genuine interest in UFO disclosure? Perhaps the first step is recognizing this difference and moving forward from there. And while we do retell urban legends of bloody mary, perhaps an understanding that it doesn’t matter in the world whether something is real every time. If Bloody Mary’s name were said into a mirror a hundred times, it’s fairly unlikely according to most people that anything would happen. But what about that one time we all heard about where something did happen? And what about that time someone set out to find the Hell Gates or the Beast of Bray Road and was never heard from again?
There is a part of us all that likes not knowing.