On page 107 of Ghosts and Hauntings, after a description of a series of poltergeist occurrences, Bardens writes: “A strange story. Suspicion fastens upon A_____; but did the occurrences cause her hysteria or her hysteria cause the disturbances? When minds are unhappy or disturbed the mental energy, it seems, has been known to create the most curious disturbances.”
What interests me about reasoning like this is how the reader’s predisposition can make the answers to Bardens’ rhetorical questions seem obvious, whether the reader is answering them with a yes or a no. If you already believe in ghosts then, sure, having an “unhappy mind” could make it easier to see them. However, if you are in any sense skeptical then it’s only rational to assume that A_____ was pulling pranks, which came to an end once she was placed with a foster care mistress who was more strict and wouldn’t put up with her shenanigans. To assume anything else, without more reliable evidence than a young girl’s testimony, seems willfully ignorant, or at best, naive.
Bardens says, at one point in the description of the events (page 106), that the “ghosts” would sometimes write messages on slate tablets—one of their most exciting tricks—but only if the lights were turned off and all of the witnesses, except A_____ and her siblings and a nanny, were forced to leave the room. Then, when the ghosts had finished writing on the tablets, the nanny would say it was okay for the others to come back into the room, and, SHOCKINGLY, they would find strange, cryptic writing on the slate boards. We call this “stacking the deck.” The most surprising thing, to me, is how many people believed this was proof of poltergeist activity, (enough that it was still considered “evidence” of a haunting as late as the 1960s when Bardens wrote his book.)
Moral to the story: humans are liars, compulsive and aggressive, at the same time they are also happy to believe any lie they hear, however obvious the falsehood, if the lie protects or upholds what they WANT to believe is true. Silly humans…
—Richard F. Yates