This last Saturday saw the “first annual” SoCal Paracon and the IIG took full advantage to show up and make our presence known to all those who may call themselves “paranormal investigators.” As we expected, it was a sparsely attended event, but that didn't stop us from putting out as many $50,000 Challenge Applications as we could and stating our case literally face to face with the wooyist bunch of people I have seen since my days working at a Spiritualist church. SoCal Paracon was a chance to stop talking and start walking and I'm proud to announce that IIG rose to the occasion. Although we still did a lot of talking, it was directly in the face of the people who need to hear what we have to say, and it made a huge difference.
Any negativity was immediately disarmed as soon as we showed up at the loading dock with all our gear. A good humored guy in a “Para Whore” t-shirt kindly offered to help us load in and greeted us warmly. I think we all knew we would be having a much easier time of it when that moment passed. As we stressed to everyone who approached us – we want to believe – show us! We did our best to let everyone know that we just take a more scientific point of view than most of the people running around with flashlights and EMF meters and claiming to have absolute proof of the supernatural.
Jim Underdown of CFI/IIG led the charge as we set-up and watched the room take shape. Being a veteran of such events, it was understandably hard for him to stomach the whole thing. To his credit he managed to make it through most of the day without flinching. It was hard for all of us to keep our composure, especially when the “lectures” began and it soon became apparent just how ridiculous most of the “ghost hunters” really were. Nice down home folks, just not entirely scientific in their approach.
Soon people began to come to our table. Stories were told, anecdotes and even a few truly amazing people who had “gifts” they wanted to share with us spoke to all of us enthusiastically. We smiled, spoke about how we were all there for the same thing and collected photos and video clips for our files, all the while reminding everyone we had $5,000 on the table plus a $5,000 finders fee for anyone who leads us to a winner for our IIG Challenge. Meanwhile fellow IIGers Steve and Ross traversed the rooms incognito, interviewing and acting neutral. I can't wait to review their stuff.
As I had anticipated, my trusty pack of Zenner ESP cards attracted a lot of interest and proved to be a handy tool for “testing” the occasional person who strolled by to see what they were and what we were up to.
Susan Gerbic endlessly snapped away with her camera and further captured the spirit of the day by later dressing up as a ghost and floating through the crowd to the delight of everybody. Susan was fantastic and has written up her own excellent chronicle of this day's adventure including specific people and claims we encountered which is far more in depth than this blog, to which I will gladly direct the reader to for more details: http://montereycountyskeptics.blogspot.com/2010/10/socalparacon.html
Prior to this event, IIG had set down a few goals and after it was all over, we all wrote down what we thought worked and waht didn't. We all agreed that our main goals: 1) To offer an alternate viewpoint to the woo and provide plenty of cogent information, 2) To get out as many Challenge Applications (or web directions to) our $50,000 Challenge, and 3) To take this opportunity to bond with fellow IIG members, establish a core group of members who would be trained to deal with this kind of “in the field” situation in a diplomatic and friendly way and also set forward a quick packing list to encourage further field experiments in like territories. We should be able to move on an instant's notice. I thought we did exceptionally well with accomplished three goals. There were no brawls or nasty confrontations like we contemplated earlier on. If we had a problem with dealing with any “our side” or “your side”, it quickly became apparent that that was our problem, not theirs. Our only regret was that we didn't see many more people. It was expensive to buy a ticket: $35.00! In this economy, it was amazing that anybody would pay to hear and see any of what we were bombarded with. This shows that the media is having a huge impact with paranormal programming and people are not only interested in ghosts, hauntings and the supernatural, they are ready and willing to come out and investigate it. The IIG couldn't have been in a better hot bed of woo. Investigate? Well, …yes. We've got that covered.
For me, shaing my knowledge with these folks was like the magically transcendent ”Ah ha” moment that happens when a magic student is finally given the secret to a trick they have puzzled over. After seeing how easy it is to do once the secret is known, they breathe out a mixture of relief and inspiration. To share this kind of communication is a rare experience and has to be felt to be completely understood. It's a feeling of helping. And no woo belief can touch that.