Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Giving Advice on the Paranormal

I follow a lot of paranormal pages and belong to a number of  paranormal groups on Facebook. It always disturbs me to see the advice people give each other when it comes to certain paranormal topics. It's like the blind leading the blind. I know this is a field where there are arguably no 'experts' and technically MOST ideas are simply conjectures and theories, but we can and must do better.  I am sick of seeing advice being given that is at best, unhelpful, and at worst, both mentally and physically dangerous.

I came across this graphic today and thought that it was a pretty good way to summarize the thought process you should go through before offering up advice or commenting on a paranormal post, especially those posts in which someone is asking for help or advice.

Let's break it down.

T - Is it True? When you're offering advice regarding a field where there are very few known absolutes, it can be difficult to keep your own opinion or even what you believe to be true out of it. But, its important that you do your best to only offer up the facts. However, if you absolutely feel it is necessary to throw in a little popular or personal opinion, make sure you qualify your statements as such.  Where applicable, provide links and sources that back up your statements and give the person asking for advice a place to go for more information.

H - Is it Helpful? Do you REALLY have something to say that is helpful to the situation? Does your statement have educational value or is it just pointless chatter? Are you fear mongering or legitimately trying to help? Are you hijacking the post with your own issues that are detracting from the original poster's? Are you even qualified to give an opinion on this matter (especially when it comes to things like health issues)? Before replying to a post asking for help, ask yourself these questions, and ask yourself whether or not you would find your statement helpful if it were you who needed the help.

I - Is it Inspiring? Okay, I'll admit that 'inspiring' posts don't really fit with this scenario of offering advice.  But, bonus points if your post is actually inspiring in any way, especially if it inspires someone to do further research on a topic or to look at an issue with a different point of view. Be an inspiration to other posters by staying on topic, offering sound advice, not giving opinions on topics which you aren't qualified to give opinions on, and being polite, kind, and professional.

N - Is it Necessary? This one sort of ties in with the helpfulness of a post. Is what you're saying necessary to contribute to the post and stay on topic? Are you offering a fresh point of view, or are you just needlessly reiterating what others have already discussed at length without adding any additional value?

K - Is it Kind? It seems like many people have issues with staying kind. For those who have studied the paranormal field for a long time, it can be frustrating when people ask very simplistic questions that we assume should be easily answered or debunked. We can't forget that we're all in different spots along our journey in this field, and thus have a wide range of knowledge and experience. Further, many of these paranormal groups are frequented by members who don't actively study the paranormal---but rather come there when they are experiencing things they can't explain. It's much more frustrating when people who ask for advice obviously have already made up their minds and don't really want to hear what you have to say...especially when what you have to say is of a more skeptical nature. It is extremely common to see posters react to any type of questioning or offering of explanations that don't fit their preconceived notions to get extremely defensive. That defensiveness often devolves into some pretty rude comments and accusations. If that happens to you, be the bigger person. Stand by the facts and accept the idea that not everyone is going to see it your way. Stay kind and stay professional. Don't stoop to name calling, shaming, or any other negative behavior.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Reasons for Being Admitted to an 1800s Asylum

This image has been passed the internet for quite some time now and shows the 'reasons of admission' to insane asylums between the years of 1864 and 1889. The first time I saw a version of this was in the appendix of A Short History of Weston Hospital: Weston, WV by Joy Gilchrist-Stalnaker (2007). And as many readers will immediately recognize---Weston State Hospital was formerly operated as the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, a name that the current owners have re-bestowed upon the now-closed mental health facility in central West Virginia.

A similar list can also be found in the more recently published, Lunatic: The Rise and Fall of an American Asylum by Edward S. Gleason and both books contain lists with even more reasons for admission not included in this particular infographic. Further, according to the website, Appalachian History, a published list of rather strange reasons to be admitted to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum appeared in an even earlier publication---a pamphlet from 1993 written by Marjorie E. Carr, which states that these reasons were pulled from the early log books of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum between October 22, 1864 and December 12, 1889.  So, its pretty well established  WHERE these strange reasons came from...but were people REALLY admitted to an insane asylum for things like being lazy and reading too many novels?

Yes and no. Indicating that greediness and bad company were enough for one to be deemed insane, and thus admitted to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and similar facilities is a little misleading unless you understand the state of psychiatric care in the late 1800s. The book, Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum, by Mark Stevens offers one of the most simplistic explanations for the rather disturbing nature of the list above.

Throughout the 1800s, most doctors focused less on a 'diagnosis' as we'd understand it today, and instead, would ascribe a "cause of insanity" to each patient. These causes of insanity usually fell into one of two categories: 1. Moral Circumstances, which would include things like intemperance and vice; religious excitement; being unlucky in love; anxiety; and poverty. 2. Physical Conditions, which would include fever, head injuries and childbirth.  So, just because you read too many novels in and of itself wasn't necessarily a ticket to the asylum; you actually did have to 'act crazy.' But, you weren't 'crazy' because of schizophrenia, depression, or anything else found in the DSM-IV...you were crazy because you read too much! There had to be a reason for your insanity, and eh, reading too much was out of the norm for the time period, so that must have been the cause.
Up until fairly recently, there wasn't a great deal of treatment options available in mental health and what was available was administered whether the patient suffered from schizophrenia, dementia, dissociative identity disorder, etc. And in a time where mental illness wasn't really understood, I guess it just seemed to make more sense to classify and group patients based on what triggered/caused their 'insanity.' So don't worry! Your son can get married, your husband can desert you, you can lose a lawsuit, or you can be imprisoned and it doesn't necessarily mean you're automatically eligible for a room with padded walls.

But...if you were a woman during this time period and your family or spouse wanted you out of the way, it was pretty darn easy under this system to have you put away for a long, long time.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What's New on Facebook for November

Every November 1st I go through somewhat of a Halloween hangover. Maybe the sensation is best described as Halloween withdrawals. All throughout October, I'm constantly pumped up about the big day---and then Halloween comes and goes. I always have a great month and a great holiday, but a sort of depression or melancholy sets in immediately after. As a result, I get pretty unmotivated when it comes to the blog and maintaining Theresa's Haunted History Facebook page.

Therefore, I've decided to make it a point to post some fresh content EVERY day to Facebook. I've done daily themes before with success, so I'm hoping you all will enjoy this month's round of special posting. I'll still be posting links to my new blog entries, news stories, and anything else I find interesting, but will be implementing the plan below in an effort to stay motivated and on point. Here's a look at what to expect if you follow Theresa's Haunted History on Facebook!

Weekly Posts:

Mondays:  Monday will continue to be Monday Night Debate night. Each Monday evening, I will be asking YOU to weigh in on some of the more controversial topics making up the paranormal field today. There are no right or wrong answers---I just want to see some healthy discussion and sharing of opinions.  Feel free to speak your mind, provide evidence for your reasoning (links, etc.), and share your knowledge. All I ask is that discussions remain courteous and open-minded.

Tuesdays: Tuesday will continue to be Tuesday Night Vocabulary. I will continue to share jargon from all areas of paranormal study, including but not limited to, ufology, cryptozoology, parapsychology, etc. These words will range from common concepts that every paranormal enthusiast/investigator needs to be familiar with, to really off-the-wall terms that will never come up in normal conversation---but will go a long way in making you SOUND like an expert in the field.

Wednesday: I'll be bringing back West Virginia Wednesdays! Each Wednesday evening, I'll spotlight a different haunted location within the Mountain State.

Thursday:  Thursdays will officially be Throwback Thursday. There are a lot of really cool old stories of ghosts, monsters, and all things creepy from vintage newspapers. Each week, look for a new story originally documented over a century ago.

Friday: Friday will now be Friday Film Night. Each Friday evening, pop up some popcorn, snuggle up on the couch, and get ready for some spooky films! There are so many great FREE documentaries on a variety of paranormal topics available through various places online. I'll be sharing and reviewing some of MY favorite recommendations.

Saturday: Saturdays will now be devoted to spooky quotes. Each Saturday, I'll post a quote about some aspect of the paranormal from a celebrity, scientist, paranormal investigator, writer, etc. Get inspired by what others are saying about the field.

Sunday: Sunday will know be The Sunday Skeptic. Each Sunday evening, I'll be posting some sort of article, video, graphic, or writing on the paranormal that features a skeptical viewpoint. It is impossible to receive a comprehensive education on ANY subject without examining it through all viewpoints, and the paranormal is no exception. The information posted will be designed to get you thinking and questioning.

Daily Posts:

1. Question of the Day: I want to hear from you! Every day at noon I'll be posting a generalized question asking you about your paranormal beliefs and experiences. Please weigh in with your opinions as often as you'd like!

2. Creepy Photo of the Day: Each day at 3pm I'll be posting a creepy photo for your viewing pleasure. These photos might be alleged ghost photos, photos from spooky old buildings, or anything else I find especially interesting.