Is there room in the Para/Crypto/Fortean world for a gun-toting, paranoid, bipolar, opinionated bastard? A lonely romantic in search of his lost soul? A knight, Samurai, gunslinger, born in the wrong century? A self-destructive, doom-driven survivor seeking redemption? A heavy drinking gonzo outlaw cryptozoologist whose ego is exceeded only by his libido?
No, there isn't. That's why I'm here...

27 June 2010

"Paranormal": It's More Than Ghosts!

My old (1969) edition of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines "paranormal" thusly: "
adj. Not within the range of normal experience or scientifically explainable phenomena."
Call me conservative, call me a geek or nerd. Call me an old fart and speculate on how much free time I must have or whether or not I have what you'd call "a life", but I don't care. I'm getting tired of every Google or Amazon search containing the word "paranormal" returning page after page of results about nothing but ghosts, ghost hunters, ghost hunting groups, ghost hunter TV shows, ad nauseum.
When I was a kid, the topic of the paranormal included everything from the Abominable Snowman, to UFOs, to psychic phenomena, ancient astronauts, Atlantis and MU, to, yes, ghosts and hauntings. In 7th grade, my teacher gave me a whole class period to discuss everything from Von Daniken, to Hans Holzer, to the Betty & Barney Hill abduction case.
But now, (thanks to "TAPS", I suppose) the word "paranormal" has been completely co-opted by the ghost hunter community. Another factor is that the cryptozoology community, striving to be recognized as a "legitimate" science, has distanced itself from anything related to the word. Never mind that Bigfoot, the Mothman, Nessie, Ogopogo, and any number of other all-stars of cryptozoology are, by definition, "Not within the range of... scientifically explainable phenomena."
I can't help but chuckle at the thought of the residents of paranormal hot spots trying to seek assistance from any of today's groups, or even trying to ascertain which discipline would consider these areas worthy of study.
TAPS: "So, you've got mysterious glowing balls of light? Phantom creatures attacking your cattle? UFOs? A gateway to another dimension with a humanoid crawling out? Cattle mutilations? Sorry, we can't help you. We're a paranormal society, so we just do ghosts."
Cryptozoologist: "What do you mean, these creatures appear and disappear at will? They emerge from UFOs or portals? Objects are moving around in your home? Sorry, we can't help you. We're cryptozoologists, so we only do undiscovered animals. Call us back if you find a weird frog."
UFOlogist: "So, you're seeing lights in the sky? (yawn) These creatures you're seeing, are they short, gray humanoids with almond-shaped eyes and big heads? Oh, they're more like giant wolves, phantom cats, and large hairy bipeds? Sorry, we can't help you, we're UFOlogists, so we only do unknown aircraft."
I realize I can't fight the inevitability that words change over time, that definitions are occassionally re-defined, but it's a shame that even a simple word has become a hinderance to our progress in understanding the weirdness of the universe around us.

1 comment:

Autumnforest said...

You know, it's all linguistics. I remember a kid, ghosts were "supernatural" and paranormal was "UFOs." We go through phases, though. The 70s were all about Bigfoot and the 80s were more about UFOs and I'm guessing now with ghosts being back "in" and hopefully declining in popularity, we'll go back to Bigfoot again and then UFOs and ghosts... Seems like we haven't gotten anywhere in knowledge in any of those areas since then though. Hopefully next go-round we'll learn something new...