Blog: We need something more substantial

By Giles Broadbent on September 11, 2012 9:37 PM |


What about the ghosts? No-one thinks about the ghosts any more. And they're still out there - or, to be precise, in there - occupying cellars, inns, naves, nooks and manor houses - knocking books off shelves, slamming doors and expressing themselves through the medium of huff.

Hungover and dissolute, I (like a ghost) was trapped and vapid on a Saturday morning sofa, fixed in place by ancient Most Haunted episodes during which the Liverpudlian ham vessel Derek Acorah and the fretful Yvette Fielding captured little on their night-time attic mini-cams except green-hued chin quiver.

The thing about ghosts - perhaps the only thing about ghosts - is that they either exist or they don't. If it was dogs under floorboards or children in wells we'd be obliged to investigate, wouldn't we?

I'd forgotten all about ghosts and then suddenly I was aware of nothing else. They're still out there, you see. Still troubled and restless and prowling even though we've moved on to Strictly and Glee.

I turned to debunker-in-chief Richard Dawkins to achieve what a poltergeist cannot - a quieted spirit. The prof promoted coincidence, confirmation bias, Chinese whispers and creaking joints as their genesis.

But another boffin took a less incurious view.

"Until we have found a proper answer to a mystery, it's perfectly OK to say 'This is something we don't yet understand but we're working on it'. It's a challenge we should rise to."

Actually, I lied. Richard Dawkins said the other thing too, showing that scientists are very unscientific about what we should investigate and what we should ignore as troublesome.

Only last week, for example, yards of DNA dismissed initially as "junk" were reclassified as very, very important.

Who's to say that some formerly redundant stretches don't encode collective consciousness, morphic resonance, flocking quantum residue or whatever else the foundation of the phenomena is likely to be?

Jack Trevellis may possess a clue. He's the spooky smuggler booked into the Jamaica Inn for eternity. Or maybe translucent opera singer Adelina Patti, performing endless curtain calls at her gothic home of Craig y Nos. What does she have to say?

Perhaps, we should ask her. Why not? What are we frightened of?