Paranormal and Supernatural: Scientific Explanation

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Paranormal and Supernatural are terms generally grouped together when someone is trying to explain something that is beyond scientific explanation and the laws of nature itself. The term “Paranormal” wasn’t an official term until 1920 while the term “Supernatural” has been around since roughly 1495. The use of “Supernatural” didn’t become popular until the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and has begun a slow rise in popularity again today. 

The use of “Paranormal” became increasingly popular in the 1950’s and significantly more so today. In this paper, Supernatural and Paranormal happenings during the 20th century will be compared and explained. By definition, Paranormal means a phenomenon that is beyond normal and scientific explanation. These phenomena can occur anywhere and can be experienced by anyone. Though some of the most active places of the paranormal tend to be those where death has been involved.

For example, The Whaley House located in San Diego, California built in 1857 by Thomas Whaley himself is known as the most haunted house in America. The Whaley house had many purposes such as a courtroom and a commercial theatre. Thomas and his wife, Anna, had three kids within the first few years of living in the house. Tragectly, one of three children, Thomas Jr. died at 18 months of Scarlet Fever in the house. The family moved back to San Francisco and three more kids, but eventually moved back to the original house. 

Another of their children, Violet Eloise, died by shooting herself in the heart due to her failed marriage in the outhouse on their property.Two more children, Francis Whaley and Lillian Whaley, died in the house along with their mother, Anna. Crying, lights flickering, unidentifiable apparitions, a little girl seen in the dining room, vaudeville music is sometimes heard in the theatre room, and a woman is sometimes seen in the back corner of the jury box have been rooted within the home. 

Thomas Whaley has been reported on the balcony and in the parlor, it is said he blows tobacco smoke in people’s faces. Anna Whaley is typically seen in the garden or downstairs rooms, she has also been seen wearing a green gingham dress while sipping tea in the parlor as well, a former tour guide reportedly heard her in the parlor when he was closing up. A 911 call about a woman crying at the Whaley house brought a police officer to the scene where he saw the apparition of Violet Eloise in the back of the house, the officer described the event in his confidential retirement letter. Another ghost that roams the property is called Yankee Jim, he was hung on the land for attempting to steal a boat, heavy footsteps heard in the house are said to be caused by Yankee Jim. Countless numbers of people who visit the Whaley House have reported paranormal activity, many believe the house is haunted especially considering the history.

Another example, Eastern State Penitentiary located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which was active between 1829-1971. The Penitentiary was built to be a human prison/reformatory that used primarily labor, solitude and discipline together to make prisoners penitent. The prison itself used extreme measures to guarantee absolute solitary confinement. All inmates stayed in their cells, where not allowed to interact with other inmates, limited contact with guards/personnel, and outdoor areas were made so inmates could exercise without interaction. 

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Prisoners were allowed outside for one hour a day and had hoods put over their heads whenever they did leave their cells to prevent communication and knowledge of the layout of the prison. Inmates lived, ate, worked in their cells and were not allowed any contact with the outside world including; letters, family visits, and newspapers. The prison had very grueling punishments, including dunking inmates in bath water in the winter and hung up on the wall, called the “Mad Chair” prisoners would be bound so tightly that their circulation would be cut off, which lead to permanent damage or amputation in worse cases, the “Iron Gag” which was secured in the inmate's mouth which ripped their tongue and mouth while their hands were tied behind their backs. 

In Cell Block 12, voices and high pitched laughter can be heard, on the third floor of the cell block cell doors have been reported to open on their own. Over 1,000 entries are written with the prisons “Death Ledger”, any of there were from sickness such as tuberculosis, other deaths included suicide and murder. One of the murders occurred in Cell Block 8 Cell 9, inmate named Joseph Havel stabbed his cellmate George Kopp to death with a pair of scissors, according. In Cell Block 15, the Maximum Security Block, it is reported that whispers can be heard there, people have also seen a shadowy figure running in the Block.

They're are a few different types of paranormal activities such as poltergeists, shadow people, disembodied voices/touches/sounds, scratches, full body apparitions, demonic entities etc. Poltergeists are paranormal entries that are generally the cause of, according to Vincent H. Gaddis, “...objects flying around your room and crashing to the floor, hear unexplained knockings and thumpings, and see your lights turn on and off…”. Ghosts and poltergeists are different from one another, ghosts are typically caused by the passing of someone whereas poltergeists tend to be directly linked to a living person, a “focus person”. 

Paranormal entries such as shadow people and demonic entities are known for their dangerous and terrifying nature. These entries were never alive and are known for their ability to attach to people and for their violent tendencies towards the living. Supernatural beings are different from Paranormal entities, Supernatural beings are physical and go against the laws of nature as we know it to be. Such beings are Bigfoot, Loch-Ness Monster, the Yeti, Mermaids/Sirens, and Skinwalkers etc.

In the Pacific Northwest, there is a supernatural cryptic known as the Sasquatch or Bigfoot that roams about. The Sasquatch is considered the Northwestern counterpart of the Himalayan legend of the Abominable Snowman or Yeti. The Sasquatch is described as primate like, standing at about 6 to 15 feet in height. It is said that the creature emits a foul smell and either moves silently from location to location or can emit high pitched cries. There many reported sightings, photographs, videos, footprints and such that have been filtered throughout the internet, though many have either been debunked or determined inconclusive.

The Wendigo is a supernatural man-eating cannibal commonly found in Nova Scotia, the East Coast of Canada, and the United States that became apparent in roughly the 20th century and possibly before. The Wendigo is said to be the embodiment of gluttony, greed, and excess. It is said that it is also associated with the cold, winter, starvation and famine. An Ethnographer by the name of Basil H. Johnston gave this description of a Wendigo, “The Wendigo was gaunt to the point of emaciation, its desiccated skin pulled tightly over its bones. With its bones pushing out over its skin, its complexion the ash gray of death, and its eyes pushed back deep into the sockets, the Wendigo looked like a gaunt skeleton recently disinterred from the grave. What lips it had were tattered and bloody.

Unclean and suffering from suppurations of the flesh, the Wendigo gave off a strange and eerie odor of decay and decomposition, of death and corruption.” Though this is a very thorough description there are multiple different imageries from varying tribes and people of what the Wendigo looks like, how it acts, moves, etc. It is reported that a Wendigo doesn’t rely on chasing his prey in order to capture it, rather, one of his reported traits is his ability to mimic human voices. 

Supposedly, he uses this skill to lure people away from civilization and once isolated within the deep wilderness, he feasts on them. Again, descriptions of his skills and abilities vary from person to person. Many skeptics believe that the manifestation of the Wendigo could have likely been caused by the stress and hysteria of tribes and Native Americans from lack of resources, similar to the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials. Similar to other supernatural beings, there is subsequently very little concrete evidence of the Wendigo’s existence other than legend and folklore.

Overall, the terms Supernatural and Paranormal are different in many ways, some events in the 20th century proved this. There are believers and skeptics within each community. There are videos, audios, films, shows, investigators etc that provide possible evidence to confirm and support the Supernatural and Paranormal phenomena. There may not be concrete evidence supporting all of what is held within these terms, but that does not stop people. This essay provides examples of Paranormal and Supernatural phenomena that people believe in and have provided some evidence for, obviously there are skeptics to these beliefs but there are two sides to everything.

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