When one opens one's daily newspaper, one expects to find news, especially on the front page. I realize that sometimes a human interest story or a particularly curious event will be printed, but superstitious fantasy – please! Perhaps an unusual position on a particular subject might get a mention in an otherwise newsworthy story, but as a standalone story such things should be confined to the fantasy page, i.e., Letters to the Editor.
An example of an unusual position in an otherwise newsworthy story appeared recently in the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal/New Era. A group of seismic experts was conducting a survey to determine the extent of any faults under the area, and were touring with equipment which tamped the ground. By measuring the resulting minor earthquakes they were able to get information which would otherwise be unobtainable.
Of course, they asked permission of property owners before tamping each area. Some refused to allow it because they didn't wish to allow the government to intrude any more than necessary on their property – a perfectly understandable reaction in today's political climate.
But one refusal stood out: permission was denied because the property owner was afraid the tamping would awaken the devil! Seriously! I find no fault (no pun intended) with including this in the overall story, but I would not think this would be worth a story of its own.
One “front page” story this past week would have been at home on the Entertainment page, but on page one: huh-uh. It seems the TV team “Ghost Hunters” had invaded Bube's, a local restaurant, and found: “A lamp on a table is extinguished as if by an occult hand while another next to it remains lit. A crash from a bar area, yet nothing is found that could have made the sound. A voice captured on special equipment seeming to say 'blow it out' in German.” The story continued telling about other paranormal activity which has occurred on the premises.
People believe this stuff! There is no reason to feed their ridiculous superstitions by presenting this crap as fact. So I immediately fired off the following letter to the editor:
The story about the “confirmation of paranormal activity” in your April 26 issue immediately caught my eye. In line with your pursuit of the unusual, I have a phenomenon which may be of interest to you and your readers. If you will send out a reporter to help me, I will set up a special camera to take a picture of the unicorn which has been hanging around my backyard. Of course, I will need to process the film on my special equipment - It shouldn't take more than a week to have the picture print-ready. If your reporter comes after a rainstorm, I can point out the animal’s footprints, and also show where it has been nibbling the grass.
Seriously, that story would have been more at home on the comics page, or perhaps as an advertisement for Bube's and the TV show.
The James Randi Educational Foundation is offering US$1,000,000 to anyone who can “demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural or occult power or event under test conditions agreed to by both parties.” Since 1964 there have been no takers. I doubt that there ever will be.